If the synopsis of Sidewalks Of New York isn't enough to make you dizzy, the movie itself certainly will be. Edward Burns' latest chunk of multi-jobbing (writer/director/ star/then-boyfriend of Heather Graham) spins the carousel of character inter-relationships round and round until you feel like screaming.
What could have been a pleasant enough rom-dram is quickly spoiled by gimmickry. It's not just the where-she-stops-nobody-knows relationships, either. There are chapter-punctuating mockumentary-style interviews with the lead characters to contend with, clichéd grainy camera work with, yes, extensive bouts of hand-held, scene-stealing cameos from familiar faces like Dennis Farina and Aida Turturro and a ton of in-jokes. All right, Ed, so Woody Allen keeps doing this sort of thing. It doesn't mean you have to follow suit...
Shame, because under all this flim-flam there are some neat performances going on. The always-superb Stanley Tucci is... well, superb as the venal, shallow Griffin, keeping a nasty, self-serving and deceitful character just the right side of hateable. Then there's Brittany Murphy, turning in another of her kook turns as Ashley. Yes, we've all seen her doing dippy in Clueless and Drop Dead Gorgeous, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.
In fact, all concerned shape interesting characters, with the exception of Heather Graham (miscast as the brittle Annie) and Burns himself (dull as TV producer Tommy). The trouble is that just as you start to enjoy spending time with one of them, off Burns zooms to someone else.
You might be able to forgive this in a first-time director, but Burns is on his fourth movie now. Shouldn't he have grown out of all this insecure film-school graduate guff by now?
Straining too hard to be smart and innovative, Edward Burns' latest takes a talented ensemble cast and hides them under a messy structure. The result? Some laughs, no real emotional impact and too much ""Look at me! Look at me!!"" direction.