Review: A Resolution List for 'New Year's Eve' Director Garry Marshall
by Jeremy Kirk
December 9, 2011
Dear Mr. Garry Marshall: I know you've had lots of success in the past (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries). Some of your films are among the most celebrated, romantic comedies in recent film history, but with your latest movie, New Year's Eve, which depicts a dozen stories in New York City all leading up midnight on December 31st, it seems like there might be some wheel spinning going on. So, in honor of the film's premise and with the actual New Years on the very near horizon, please take the time to read over this resolution list, if not for the new year coming up, then for your next film at least. Let's begin.
1. Less Is More
Okay, this isn't always the case, but when it comes to intersecting storylines, characters that need all the help they can get when it comes to development, and stunt casting, it's definitely the case. Sure, Valentine's Day, also written by Katherine Fugate, was one of the most bankable films you directed. But like that movie, New Year's Eve suffers under the weight of every one of those storylines. They intersect in the most awkward of places. We know Robert De Niro as the dying old man who wants to get to the roof to see the Times Square ball drop is going to be related to someone. It becomes a guessing game as to who. We realize Josh Duhamel's story of the "one that got away" is going to include one of the other random people shown. Again, it's a guessing game as to who, and neither of these examples are that difficult to sort out.
We hardly get to know any of the characters involved here either, most of them having to do with people trying to get somewhere before the ball drops. None of them are fleshed out with any level of sufficiency, so when it comes down to it, interesting premise or not, we simply don't care. In fact, there's not even enough room in a review to go over all the storylines and characters for fear of whittling them down to a single line of description. That's pretty much how it appears in your movie, though.
That's when the fake sentimentality, something you're quite fond of, gets injected. Like thousands of streamers getting dropped onto the city streets come midnight, it might be pretty for a fleeting moment, but it quickly gets forgotten and swept away. The same goes for the stunt casting. After the tenth "surprise" cameo, the novelty has worn off, and it gets tiresome to turn to our neighbor and say, "oh I recognize that person" after a while.
2. Remember Chemistry
Seeing people falling in love is so much more fun when it actually feels like there's something between the two. I know you wanted a rock star to portray the… well, rock star, in your film, but the relationship between Jon Bon Jovi and Katherine Heigl is completely nonexistent. There's something between Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele, but he's such an unlikable character anyway that you don't care if they get out of their stuck elevator or not. Remember Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Remember Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. These weren't classic love connections in film, but at least they were believable.
3. Know What You've Got
Some of the storylines could made interesting, feature length films. The premise of two pregnant couples, Jessica Biel & Seth Meyers and Sarah Paulson & Til Schweiger here, in a competition to have their newborn be the first born of the new year in order to win a large sum of money is quite interesting. The idea of a mentally imbalanced woman—I'm guessing that's what you were going for with Michelle Pfeiffer's character—trying to go through every one of her New Year's resolutions in one day, and the messenger boy, Zac Efron, helping her would have made a lovely film with good build on either of their characters and the situations they go through. As it is, though, we hop from one resolution solved to the next, each of them seemingly accomplished with hardly any conflict or difficulty involved.
Pass this one on to Miss Fugate. She knows how to come up with decent ideas, and focusing on one or two of the good ones could lead to memorable films. Naturally, this feeds into the first resolution on this list. Yes, less is more, and less is so much better when it's good or, at the very least, interesting.
4. Don't Film People When They're Sleeping
This is only an assumption here, but it really seemed like you interrupted Ludacris aka Chris Bridges mid-nap, and that's just rude, sir.
5. Have a Point to Comedy Beats (Especially Ancillary Ones)
At one point in the movie, a child is separated from his mother in Times Square and must navigate through the large crowd to get to her. A newswoman picks him up and passes him to the nearest person, beginning a crowd-surfing scene that looked like something out of a Bad Religion concert. It has no bearing on the rest of the film, nor do any of the characters involved have any relation to any of the "main" stories going on. It's a funny moment, but only in the sense that it looked like you had lost your damn fool mind. New Year's Eve looked, for a moment, like it had completely derailed, but it quickly goes back to the regularly scheduled programming otherwise known as the aforementioned boring plot lines. Maybe take a second the next time one of these moments come up while you're shooting and really think on if it serves a purpose. Or just have the whole thing be derailed, continue the derailment, and embrace some absolute absurdity in your film. At least that would be more entertaining than this tedium.
That's just a sampling of my suggestions. There are so many ways to improve on your work, but start with these simple steps and you'll be headed in the right direction. At the very least, your next film won't be a monotonous slog of saccharine emotion, and we'll be able to put New Year's Eve out of our minds for good.
Jeremy Kirk, the critic who gave New Year's Eve a 3 out of 10