Greetings again from the darkness. Many people (not me) were (and still are) enthralled by Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight). Because of this, it’s not shocking that a very similar type story would be set on the streets of New York City. However, you might be surprised to learn that Captain America himself, actor Chris Evans, has taken this on as his directorial debut.
Mr. Evans also stars alongside Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness), as they saunter their way through the city during the late night and early morning hours. In a borderline meet-cute opening, Nick (Evans) is tooting his trumpet in Grand Central Station when a frazzled Brooke (Eve) goes sprinting by and drops her cell phone. Brooke, of course, misses her train and Nick returns the phone fragments to her. He learns her purse was stolen and she lacks cash, credit and ID. Being a gentleman, he offers to help.
The cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder how helpful this gentleman would have been had the stressed out woman not been a world class beauty. Seriously, why do the all-night wanderers look like Chris Evans and Alice Eve, or Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? Why don’t they look like those people on the “Wal-Mart” YouTube videos?
The film unfolds like a road trip movie … although it all takes place within a few city blocks. Each little segment is like a vignette, attached with string to the overall goal of getting Brooke back to her New Haven home before her husband arrives. See, both of our heroes are running from emotional and relationship turmoil … Brooke is avoiding a confrontation with her less-than-perfect husband, while Nick wants to/doesn’t want to see his 6 years ago girlfriend (Emma Fitzpatrick). He came to the city for the trumpet audition of his life, but his internal battle is over whether to see his old flame … all while subtlety trying to win over Brooke. Yep, it’s as lame and ridiculous as it sounds.
A brief stop for a psychic reading is a highlight, if for no other reason than we get relief from the flirting, fighting, and philosophizing of Brooke and Nick in the form of veteran actor John Cullum – a little bit psychic and a little bit elder wisdom. The film does have a nice look to it – the city alternates between dreamy, dangerous and hardcore. Unfortunately, the overused shaky-cam has a negative impact on many intimate scenes, and prevents us from enjoying the colors, lights and textures of the city. Editing out the sprinkled profanities would make this an easy fit for Hallmark or the Lifetime channel. It’s harmless enough, just not as charming or romantic as it tries to be.