The new film New Year’s Eve (directed by Garry Marshall) tries so hard to be a film in the current “moment” but somehow feels dated, like it could have been made any time in the last twenty years – or the next ten. Released here in Australia in mid-December, it features one day – December 31st 2011, turning into January 1st 2012 – thus is set in the immediate future, that is, literally two weeks from the date I am writing this. If that’s not an attempt to sit in this exact “moment”, I don’t know what is.
The film is pleasant, albeit derivative – if you have seen Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day (2010) and Love Actually (UK, Richard Curtis, 2003), you have seen it before, with Love Actually well … actually much superior to the other two. That’s mostly because what happens between the characters in New Year’s Eve does not affect us very much, despite an outstanding cast, including Robert de Niro (who does not get out of bed the whole time), Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi (looking great, I should say – and well-cast as a singer), Abigail Breslin (as a 15-year old desperate to go to Times Square to “watch the ball drop” with her boyfriend and get that kiss), Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cary Elwes, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hector Elizondo, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl.
New York City plays an important role in this film – we see Mayor Bloomberg playing himself (although much more low key than in real life), and – aside from featuring Times Square – we prominently see the Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum of Art with its Panorama of the City of New York (both museums prominently named/signed – even, as I recall, in a toilet at one point; have you ever seen a museum name in a toilet before? me neither), Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Tiffany’s, the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations and the Myrtle Avenue subway station in Brooklyn. Garry Marshall was born in The Bronx, so he should be forgiven (in fact, applauded) for making New York City possibly the most well-rounded character in his film.
Thumbs down to the hospital sequence with two couples vying to win the $25,000 prize for first baby born in the New Year (not funny).
Reviews of New Year’s Eve have not been good (currently sitting at 7% positive – that is 9 out of 121 reviews on Rottentomatoes website), although reportedly audiences are much more positive – and it grossed about US$27million worldwide in its opening weekend – not bad, although not likely to be a blockbuster hit.
At the end of the day, New Year’s Eve aimed low and hit its target. But it certainly is not the “moment” film of late 2011 in the same way that Friends with Benefits became the “Zeitgeist winner of the summer” (David Denby in The New Yorker) with the couple taking their “no-emotion pledge by laying their hands on a tablet Bible app”.