I wasn’t expecting to like New Year’s Eve, not being a particular fan of the artificially-imposed gaiety that can characterize that particular holiday.
But after sitting through Clint Eastwood’s creaky and static J. Edgar before it, I found the movement and upbeat pacing of this ensemble piece to be a lot more uplifting, and this came as a total surprise.
Not that the film doesn’t abound with clichés, or that a lot of good talent isn’t wasted pursuing hackneyed plots.
New Year’s Eve takes place in New York City in the immediate present, poised as we are on the cusp of the old year and the new.
It features an extremely large cast, ranging from Robert De Niro to Hilary Swank to Michelle Pfeiffer and Jon Bon Jovi, among many, many others.
Swank plays Claire Morgan, a public relations type hired by the Times Square Alliance to coordinate the logistics of New York’s iconic countdown and dropping of the ball at midnight.
Only trouble is, the ball gets stuck halfway up during the dry run and refuses to budge, either up or down. As Claire’s personal anxiety mounts with the approach of midnight, the scene shifts to other points of crisis.
In a hospital room nearby, ex-photojournalist Stan Harris, played by De Niro, lies dying.
His last wish – to watch the ball descending as he has for decades – is politely refused by nurse Aimee, played by Halle Berry, who sits by his side all night and cheerfully comforts him.
In another area of the hospital, two couples are in fierce competition, vying to each produce the first New Year’s baby and win prodigious amounts of cash.
In a swank hotel kitchen, the head chef Laura (Katherine Heigl) is furiously reaming out rock idol Daniel Jensen (Bon Jovi), the evening’s main entertainment for the Times Square celebration.
A year previously he walked out on her and she’s not about to forgive him. Across town, one of his backup singers is trapped in an elevator with a comic book illustrator who detests New Year’s Eve with a passion.
Their stories interweave, along with numerous others who are anticipating the big night. Each find a personal catharsis, and although it sounds trite in the telling, it works in a formulaic way.
New Year’s Eve is a pleasant enough piece of entertainment, if you can get past its manipulative homage to a calendar event that’s built up out of all proportion, but that we still drag ourselves out to observe.
As for the aforementioned J. Edgar, it will be gone from local screens by publication time, and that’s probably a good thing.
It’s a dreary, misbegotten film that tries to do the impossible – put a human face on the monstrosity that was J. Edgar Hoover, the founding director of the FBI.
We should expect better from Eastwood than J. Edgar.
New Years Eve plays at the Qwanlin Cinema at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 pm, and is rated PG for coarse language.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.