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New Review: New York Lately

May 5, 2009

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An indie with a lot of heart, New York Lately< follows a cast of characters, some related, some not as they seek out the meaning of life’s big questions, what are they willing to live with, willing to do, willing to feel to push forward in life?

New York serves more as a backdrop rather than as a living, breathing character as it often does in so many other films. Really, the film is about the people and the universality of what they are living through – New York just appears to be where they live.

The sets are the mundane places we all revolve around, generic offices, coffee shops, apartments – all leading us to feel a part of the film – the people could be us, could be our friends – the places they visit could just as easily be where we tread.

But what is not quite so generic is the way that director Gary King brings out some strong performances from a talented cast. There’s something about all of them that is likeable and sincere, particularly Jared (Jared Asato), an unhappy human resource employee who struggles with leaving his work while running across Truly (Susan Cagle), a coffeeshop employee with dreams of being a singer. Their mutual attraction is obvious but the story arc gives us our conditional happy ending as the two finally come together.

Veronica (Jenn Dees) is a friend of Truly’s and also works at the coffee shop while aspiring to be an actress. She runs into Jared’s friend, Mark (Mark DiConzo) when doing voice over work together. Mark is oblivious to the woman in front of him, or to any reality, as he obsesses over his recent ex-girlfriend Andrea (Molly Ryman of …Around<).

For Veronica, living the dream of being an actress has some potential nightmare situations and she is faced with somewhat of the generic sleazy request of a casting agent wanting to kiss her for the screen test. While the set up was obvious, her reaction is anything but which is commonplace of all of King’s characters – they may face situations we have heard of a million times, but they handle them with a little bit of grace and grit.

Jared and Mark’s third friend, Ringo (John Weisenburger) is a bit of a mess but Weisenburger lets us see the cracks in his hard shell at just the right moments, softening the character.

Several characters that are not as connected are Elliot (Jeremy Koerner) and Sam (Vanessa Streiff) who set out to find the truth of whether Elliot’s wife is cheating. Along the way, the two bond and Sam’s affection for Elliot’s earlier writings help him to discover that the investigation is just helping him realize what he already knew – he’s not happy and not who he should be anymore.

It would be easy to compare moments of the film with other New York character dramas, but King really makes the film his own. The stories are simple but timeless and while we never get to spend too much time with anyone character, we are able through some great acting and good editing, immerse ourselves in their lives for a while. The ending comes with no real resolution but then again – there never was meant to be one anyway – it was just a glimpse into life struggles – and there really is no way to wrap that up with a pretty bow – instead King calls scene at just the right time, somewhere in the middle.

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New York Lately is currently on the festival circuit.

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