Downtown New York, late on New Year’s Eve 1981—it’s a neo–Brat Pack ensemble piece about know-nothing twentysomethings and their social plights. Mostly, though, it’s a stomach-roiling reacquaintance with New Wave, mousse-and-“glittah” style, alien hair helmets, and post-punk accessories, worn by a huge cast of already-somebodies: Ben Affleck, Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffman, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Hudson, Paul Rudd, Casey Affleck, Courtney Love, Jay Mohr, and more—too many likable stars, all doing little. But if this movie’s about the old you, give it a shot.
The Coen brothers do midcentury New Yawk magical realism with this high-flying launch of poppycock, which revolves around a dolt with a dream (Tim Robbins), a huge corporation with management problems, and a clockwork cosmology that, in various ways, revolves rather wondrously around New Year’s. Again, the holiday is at least half about what’s bygone, so the evocation of a fantastical, screwball Gotham, shrouded in late December snow, makes this film a seasonal shoo-in.
Almost in a tribute to Made for Each Other—among a great many other movies that have wrapped up with scenes of revelers counting down to the new year—this popular Nora Ephron-scripted, Rob Reiner–directed romantic comedy ends its gender-disagreement tale of love, friendship, and fate amid midnight confetti and a proclamation of just-realized passion (everyguy Billy Crystal’s, for longtime buddy Meg Ryan). It’s a merciless sigh producer even for (or especially for) educated urbanites, and our advice is this: don’t watch it, ever, if you’re single and lonesome. If you’re not, you’ve probably already seen it.
Woody Allen has seen career peaks and troughs like few other working filmmakers. His run of hits in the 1980s was remarkable, yet somehow this memoir-comedy—set in, around, and on top of radio culture as it was experienced by a nebbishy Coney Island kid (Seth Green), among others—was relatively unsung when it was released. Twenty years later, it’s beginning to look like one of his masterpieces, and the enormous canvas of ethnic satire, all-American period flavor, eccentric characters, throwaway gags, high-octane nostalgia, and personal (for Woody) ardor makes for easy repeat viewing under a variety of circumstances. New Year’s is one of those circumstances, as the film climaxes with a comic—and wistful—year-end celebration on a fabled snowy New York rooftop. Viewers may end up feeling that the film has encapsulated an entire crowded year of experience, memory, growth, and adventure.