Like a lot of other New Jersey and New York residents, Burns can't help but be tempted by the city life. In his fourth film, Sidewalks of New York, he examines three men and three women whose romantic lives intersect. It's a pleasant and amusing turn after the potent dreariness of No Looking Back. But why do I get the feeling that anyone could have directed Sidewalks? I guess it's because setting a romantic comedy in New York City seems silly, if you can't capitalize on the atmosphere. And Burns can't. Try as he may, he's still a big city outsider. And I think he's better off that way.
As part of a talented and criminally photogenic cast, Burns plays a TV producer whose two dates with teacher Maria (Rosario Dawson) put them in an awkward position. Maria's ex-husband, Barry (David Krumholtz), wants to reunite, but he soon falls in love with waitress Ashley (Brittany Murphy). Ashley, 19, is not getting much emotionally out of her sexual relationship with the much-older Griffin (Stanley Tucci). Griffin's wife, Annie (Heather Graham, Burns' one-time real-life girlfriend), is beginning to lose faith in her husband and to develop feelings for a certain TV producer.
Burns, who also wrote the script, does an admirable job in maintaining the action. No one character seems underdeveloped, and the cast does a great job with the humorous material -- especially Tucci, who makes Griffin into such a jerk that you can believe him cheating on someone who looks like Heather Graham. Well, almost. Krumholtz also scores as the lovable geek, who in a desperate attempt to relate with the Iowan Murphy, says he once visited Atlanta. He'd be a perfect fit in Woody Allen's next comedy.
Though the movie moves briskly and has plenty of chuckles, Burns' delivery needs some tinkering. The six main characters are periodically shown talking about their relationships to a documentary filmmaker. It's a tactic that fails resoundingly because of the maddening questions it produces. How did the characters get involved in the project? Wouldn't the characters talk to each other about their interviews, instead of acting like they don't exist? What are the odds that a filmmaker could find six people who are all related to each other so intimately?
Burns, in an effort to make the proceedings appear more real-life, also fills the film with an annoying number of jump cuts. It's completely out of place with the film's stream of bouncy one-liners and funny discussions. Also out of place is Dennis Farina, a wonderful actor, who plays Burns' horndog mentor. He talks about dumping women, the benefits of putting cologne on his testicles, and other aspects of his sex life. It's not pretty.
Burns continues to be a fine writer of dialogue, and he has a knack for balancing candor with laughs. The fact that he's pulled in such a high-profile cast is proof enough of his talent. My only issue is how he invests his gifts. A New York City love story is fine, but he can do better.
On DVD, the only real extra is a commentary by Burns, mostly discussing the behind-the-scenes making of the film (instead of just reminiscing about the shoot, like most commentators tend to do).
Run time: 108 mins
In Theaters: Friday 30th November 2001
Box Office USA: $2.1M
Distributed by: Paramount Classics
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 40
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Edward Burns
Producer: Edward Burns