New Year’s Eve (2011)


I hate to start out the new year on such a cynical note, but New Year’s Eve leaves me no choice. A follow up to director Garry Marshall’s 2010 schlock Valentine’s Day, this inflated ensemble piece wants you to believe that the last day of the year is one of high drama, a time when we confront our hopes and fears so that we can come to some great truth and do right by it. My experience tells me something else, that come December 31, most of us just want to have a good time and get drunk or lounge around and order a pizza.

It’s manufactured sentimentality around a day that has the dumb luck of being the last one on the calendar. Borrowing on the Love Actually formula, the movie hurls a dozen different stories at its audience, hoping that one will stick. That they all connect in the loosest way possible is supposed to make the whole charade seem meaningful. It’s not. Instead, we get a jumbled mess of half-tales, broken bits of story that don’t form any cohesive picture even though all the action circles back to the Times Square ball drop. The emotional highpoint comes during a televised press conference, which tells you a lot about where things are heading.

Hilary Swank plays the woman whose job it is to make Times Square’s famed New Year’s celebrations goes off without a hitch. She’s enlisted monoymous superstar Jensen (sometimes monoymous Bon Jovi) to draw in crowds, but he’s more interested in wooing his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Heigl) than in belting out hits. She confides in her friends (Sofia Vergara and Russell Peters), and it’s funny because they have accents. Meanwhile, Jensen’s backup singer (Lea Michele) is stuck in an elevator with some guy who hates the holidays (Ashton Kutcher), and his bike messenger roommate (Zac Efron) spends the day helping a mousy assistant (Michelle Pfeiffer) complete her resolutions. Roommate’s sister (Sarah Jessica Parker) wants to stay home with her rebellious teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin) but may nip out for her standing date with a mystery stranger (Josh Duhamel) from last New Year’s. A few blocks away, a cranky old man (Robert De Niro) refuses to die until he sees the ball drop from the hospital roof. In the maternity ward, two couples (Seth Meyers, Jessica Biel, Til Schweiger, and Sarah Paulson) compete to push out the first baby and win lots of money.

If this seems like nothing more than a hurried summary, you’re not far off the mark; this is about as deep as any of these storylines get. I liked the dynamic between Efron and Pfeiffer’s character, though the story could be tightened – what kind of resolution is “to be amazed” – and obviously lengthened, and I also thought that Halle Berry gave a strong, understated performance as nurse to De Niro’s character. But as I sat through all this traffic, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was atoning for the past year’s sins. The most agonizing part was watching the two soon-to-be parents undermining each other, and their own health, just to claim a big check. It was like they had wandered off the set of an entirely different movie, which is what I recommend everyone watch instead.

Released: 2011
Prod: Samuel J. Brown, Michael Disco, Toby Emmerich
Dir: Garry Marshall
Writer: Katherine Fugate
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer,  Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson, Til Schweiger, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Russell Peters, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Jake T. Austin, Josh Duhamel, Cherry Jones, Hilary Swank, Ludacris, Ryan Seacrest
Time: 117 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2017