Dallas Movie Screening

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

AFFD2019 - In a New York Minute

Ximan Li’s debut film, “In a New York Minute,” is an ensemble piece. It’s one of those movies that weaves in and out of its cast’s interconnecting lives. Except unlike ensemble movies like “Love Actually” or “Valentine’s Day,” Li’s film doesn’t feature frequently changing points of view. Li allows her characters’ stories to play nearly to their completion point before shifting to a new perspective, her three leading ladies all connected by a single pregnancy test.

The film’s first segment introduces viewers to Amy (Amy Chang). She’s recently gone through a break-up which has caused her to develop an eating disorder, a problem since she is the food editor for a magazine. Having grown sick of her mother’s constant attempts at setting her up on dates, Amy decides to take co-worker Peter (Jae Shin) up on his romantic advances. Peter, a little too clingy and desperate, begins to help Amy with her food problem.

Angel (Yi Liu), the film’s second subject, is first introduced in Amy’s segment. They have both been asked to host portions of a TV show’s episode (produced by Amy’s magazine) about a local restaurant. Angel is stuck in a loveless marriage and has entered into an affair with a writer/director in hopes of bolstering her career in addition to spicing up her dull (maybe non-existent) sex life.

Nina (Celia Au) is the last to be introduced, her connection to the thread of events at first not entirely clear, besides the obvious fact that she’s the daughter of the man who owns the restaurant in which Amy and Angel have been filming. Nina feels trapped within her home life, working as an escort on the side to bring in extra money with the hope of breaking free from her stifling family. Her boyfriend Ian (Roger Yeh) is constantly by her side, unjudging and hopeful that she will finally leave her family and join him in opening a restaurant.

There really are a lot of strong elements to Li’s feature. The cinematography from Mego Lin is excellent. Scenes are well lit and nicely framed. The screenplay, based off a short story, is pretty well written. The characters are well defined with clear motivations. While things feel a bit abrupt in the film’s first story transition, the audience should be quick to recognize Angel as Amy’s TV co-star. Li’s “In a New York Minute” is ultimately similar to Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” in the way it handles its characters, holding each of the three stories’ epilogues until the film’s final moments.

For all of its strengths, “In a New York Minute” can’t overcome it’s one crippling feature – the actors’ performances. The acting from everyone involved is, in a word, atrocious. Lines are delivered woodenly without inflection or emotion causing none of the performances to be even slightly believable. Since all of the performances feel equally off, this would seem to point to a problem with Li’s directions to the actors; because this is Li’s first film, it’s hard to be entirely sure.

What can be positively stated (at least in my opinion) is that “In a New York Minute” is a missed opportunity. It’s a film that fell off the mark of being a good film but feels like it’s right on the verge of being decent. If it weren’t for the terrible acting this movie would have been significantly better, especially considering its strong production. It really is a shame that one aspect can so heavily weaken a work.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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