By Ashleigh Hill-Buxton
As embarrassing as it is for me to admit it, “Love Actually” (2003) is possibly one of my favourite movies; I make a point of watching it every Christmas season. With its universally appealing storyline set against the backdrop of a wintry London Christmas, with some delightful twists and turns in the character relationships and a predictably happy ending, it’s always enjoyable to watch. I love it because it is clichéd, because it represents all of the joy, love and festivity that the holiday season should bring, according to the world of film.
However, although similar in concept and theme, Garry ‘Pretty Woman’ Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve” lacked a certain something for me that would have transformed it from a film I could tolerate into a classic I would want to watch every holiday season. Like “Love Actually”, it certainly boasts an all-star cast – Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jon Bon Jovi, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, Ashton Kutcher and Hilary Swank among them – but some of the various characters and their related storylines fall short of believable, endearing or entertaining.
I’ll try to start with the good, and say that some parts of the film I rather enjoyed – the tense but ultimately resolved relationship between Heigel and Bon Jovi was amusing, and although I felt it could have been developed better, I almost shed a tear at the resolution of Halle Berry’s storyline because it was unexpected and poignant. Michelle Pfeiffer’s character – a somewhat bizarre, overworked woman hell-bent on achieving her list of New Year’s resolutions – was also endearing, though a touch predictable at times.
Unfortunately, there were many moments throughout the film where I felt the story fell flat and the characters seemed depressingly two-dimensional. Sarah Jessica Parker was expectedly disappointing as the typically tragic divorcee/overprotective mother, and the romantic ‘twist’ in her storyline was both unanticipated and lacked any sense of realism. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele had the potential for a quirky-cute relationship, though it was poorly developed and shallow at best.
Perhaps the greatest saving grace of this film is that it does work well as a feel-good movie. If you’re not looking too deeply into it for an engaging story or compelling message – and are instead satisfied to just watch and enjoy – then it certainly plays its part in creating that warm-fuzzy feeling that most people crave at this time of year. It’s certainly fun trying to work out the twists and turns in the plot (though some of them could be seen miles away) and watching each character’s story arc resolve is generally satisfying. It’s certainly not a classic, and far from the best film of the year, but is decent enough holiday faring that will leave most audiences content.
Director Marshall (the TV and film vet who has given us such classics as “Happy Days” and “Pretty Woman”) also crafted the similar-themed “Valentine’s Day” last year. What’s next Gazz? “All Hallow’s Eve” for Chrissy 2012?