No, it's not "Paths of Glory," "Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens," or any of the other half-dozen things one of the other reviewers here evidently wishes it were. But it is something I haven't seen in a while – an honest film about aging and the challenges of moving beyond regrets and missed opportunities toward mature self-fulfillment.
The modest, and I think successful, ambition of Wang's film is to tell a story about the kinds of New Yorkers we don't often see on screen these days against the backdrop of a changing city that no longer offers them the opportunities of days past.
Main character Lenny is moving toward a very literal dead end, facing the prospects of financial ruin and perpetual loneliness, until he meets Mimi and glimpses a way out of the trap his life has become.
For me, the beauty of the film is that it does not at this point become a conventional valentine to December romance, but instead offers a gentle commentary on the meaning of true friendship and finding the courage to move with dignity into life's later stages. The ending may strike some as a bit fanciful, but it makes sense in light of the film's gradual revelation of the real relationship at the heart of the story.
"The Last New Yorker" has a generous spirit, and I would definitely recommend it to those looking for a breather from the standard preconceptions of movie love in the big city.
Still photographers turned film directors can climb to the heights of their adopted profession: look at successes ranging from Russ Meyer to Stanley Kubrick. Sadly, Harvey Wang in his feature debut heads directly for Palookaville.
Despite the high rating on IMDb, presumably from votes by crew members and friends of the family, THE LAST NEW YORKER is yet another of the thousands of recent indie productions that prove to be unreleasable. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, sitting through it is a long, hard slog.
SOPRANOS thesp Chianese has the lead role nailed, and is an unfortunate victim of being stuck in a bad movie. He plays an elderly Jewish fellow with panache, until poor writing (by the film's producer and probable bankroller) turns him into a sort of prescient Bernie Madoff, bilking elderly friends & associates out of their life savings in what plays out very distastefully on screen. You want to head immediately for the exit when the story takes this unfortunate turn.
Wang's uninteresting visual style (or lack of it) and cheap film-making make for an ugly depiction of Gotham, rather than the Valentine one usually gets from as disparate a group of hometown boys as Lumet, Allen and Spike Lee. This is the type of little movie that would have looked better in black & white, made in the '60s, perhaps in the manner of my old friend, unsung indie director Jack O'Connell (see: GREENWICH VILLAGE STORY).
Instead we have our hero endlessly kvetching, giving his best buddy Dick Latessa (a nothing role and 1-note performance) a hard time, then stalking a woman (again losing any residual audience sympathy) played by Kathleen Chalfant -another 1-note turn of wide-eyed/nervous laugh tics, and finally becoming suicidal when his retirement funds are all frittered away due to bad investments. Film is not helped by a tacked-on, unconvincing happy ending.
On the shelf for several years (copyright reads 2006 on the print) with fake shooting dates stored in IMDb to make it seem newer, THE LAST NEW YORKER is the sort of movie that only a died-in-the-wool film fanatic (the kind who will watch anything that runs through a projector) or bush league film festival director could tolerate. Novelists, from J.D. Salinger on down, have the luxury of balling up their efforts and tossing them in the waste basket, but film-making, even at the low-budget level, ends up with misfires like this one that -embarrassingly linger on...
Harvey Wang is an artist with a city in his veins.
The city is New York and whilst it has myriad faces we rarely see this view, the older New Yorker and his changing burg. Wang has created something very special that we can so easily pass by and ignore in a city as storied as Manhattan. With so much history and so many movies we have one now that was previously missing.
An old man, still filled with foolish ambitions yet facing withering financial prospects falls in love and his world is changed. And not in any expected way but as a parable of hubris that all ages are capable of but might seem fatal to a man this long in the tooth.
The story is told against the backdrop of a changing city. This film, only seven years old already shows us places now gone, a vanishing city that presents so much less opportunity to those who have spent the most time here. Wang's photographic eye captures the city without jabbing you in yours.
Fine acting from the cast makes this a very watchable and compelling movie. If you have a chance this is a great movie don't pass it by.
I give it 8, no not the greatest thing ever but one you will get a kick out of if you have lived here and are also getting long in that tooth.