Don’t let the fact that one of the central premises around which New Year’s Eve (the new romantic comedy from director / producer Garry Marshall, screenwriter Katherine Fugate and producers Mike Karz and Wayne Rice – the quartet who brought you the smash hit Valentine’s Day) revolves, is a performance by the perennial rock star Jon Bon Jovi at New York’s Times Square New Year’s Eve party, put you off. For it is a prime example of what Hollywood does best – pure, unapologetic, sentimentality.
The film follows several individuals (played by amongst others, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Abigail Breslin, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyer, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank and Sofia Vergara) as their lives interconnect culminating in the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve party.
I was a little unsure when I heard the premise of New Year’s Eve. How would it work? Would it be an overload for the senses (too many ‘A‘ listers in the space of one hundred and twenty minutes all vying for the prime spot)? Would it all prove too much. But any such fears were soon put to rest as each character’s experiences played out as self contained stories within the overriding arc, independent of yet at the same time dependent on the others.
Some of the situations inevitably stand out, particularly that concerning Berry as the cancer nurse caring for De Niro’s patient as he sees out his life along with the old year (I defy even the hardest of hearts not to be softened by this, the most touching of the stories). Other spot on performances include Parker playing, well, Parker, complete with an ending which could have been lifted straight from Sex and the City (you’ll know what I mean when you see it), and Kutcher as a ‘cool dude‘ comic book artist appropriately (in the light of recent revelations concerning his private life) named ‘Randy’. One person however rises above the rest. Pfeiffer as Ingrid, the downtrodden PA to a music company boss who decides she’s had enough and, with the help of a bike messenger called Paul (Efron), finds all her dreams come true within one hectic day (which in real time it would take ten times as long to fulfill), lights up the screen in the way only a true ‘star‘ can. She need only appear in a scene to outshine all those around her and her performance here, again proves why she is up there amongst the legends of the silver screen.
The only downside perhaps (apart from some rather clever product placement by Warner Brothers in the final scene – watch out for a very large poster of Robert Downey Jr as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ in Times Square) is that each of the stories could warrant a film on their own, resulting in the feeling that some are underdeveloped – in particular the personal one involving Berry’s Nurse Aimee which could have been made more of. That said it’s obvious with the time constraint of the film and the number of interconnecting stories, some would clearly take precedence. However that is just nitpicking, and the way the characters crisscross each others paths as they race around Manhattan in the lead up to midnight, is a testament to Fugate’s imagination and skill as a writer of gentle, heartstring tugging humor.
I thought I’d keep this guilty secret to the end. I know it’s not the thing (especially for a guy) to say that you like rom-coms. But I don’t care, I admit (though I suspect you’ve already worked it out) that I do and New Year’s Eve has only served to strengthen my belief that there’s a little bit in all of us that does!
Director: Garry Marshall
Writer: Katherine Fugate
Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher
Runtime: 118 min