A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this collection of shorts about living in New York City -- whose large ensemble cast includes Shia LaBeouf, Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, Blake Lively, and many more -- runs the gamut from sweet to seductive to sexually (at least verbally) explicit. It makes for entertaining but unpredictable viewing, especially since many of the vignettes include swearing ("s--t," "f--k," etc.), smoking, and drinking (though not all do). Given the movie's mature themes and complex structure, it will likely appeal more to adults than teens and younger kids.
What's the story?
A once-famous singer (Julie Christie) revisits an old haunt, intent on ending her life. A man (Irrfan Khan) and a woman (Natalie Portman) from wildly different cultures flirt over a jewelry transaction, keenly aware that they can't be together. A pickpocket (Hayden Christensen) gets more than he bargains for when a typical lift turns oddly romantic. Two near-strangers (Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo) contemplate their one-night stand, and two teenagers (Olivia Thirlby and Anton Yelchin) embark on a most unusual date. These are just some of the adventures that unfold in NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU, a collection of shorts written and directed by an ensemble of artists and set in a resplendent New York. (It's actually the second in a series of vignette-based films about cities -- Paris, Je T'aime was first.)
Is it any good?
As might be expected from a collection of shorts, New York, I Love You has both highs and lows. Robin Wright Penn’s installment goes from heartbreaking to hopeful, while a connective storyline about a filmmaker is inert. The segment featuring Christie (which also stars Shia LaBeouf) is affectingly dreamlike, while one about a composer forced to read a classic is leaden. But there are many moments to enjoy, and the acting is first rate.
Still, because of the movie's structure, the audience can’t get too invested in any one storyline -- a legitimate complaint. But what’s truly missed is a larger sense of place. Yes, we see Manhattan's taxi cabs, glamorous restaurants, and crowded streets. But the neighborhoods are paint-by-numbers different. In the end, the New York presented here still feels a little bit like a city observed by outsiders instead of those who truly revel in its specific beauty and insanity. And doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of a movie like this?
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