I’m a Woody Allen fan, and certainly I can understand wanting to do an homage to his work, but for me Naked in New York is too much an attempt to copy Annie Hall. Normally I would think it unfair to grade a film down just because it’s clearly inferior to some classic film I love, but it’s hard not to do that when a movie constantly screams that it’s Annie Hall, when, alas, it’s decidedly not.
It’s a romantic comedy set partly in New York about the relationship of two artsy types—a Jewish male and a WASP female. It is narrated retrospectively by the male, there are occasional playful surreal elements, and some of the dialogue—especially from the male lead—is in a kind of halting, stuttering, pseudo-ad lib style. The humor is dry, wise-cracky, and at times self-deprecating.
Sounding familiar yet?
It has cute, sweet, and funny elements without a doubt—it’s not a dull, unfunny dud by any means—but it never rises to the level of something special. It’s a light, easygoing affair that earns some chuckles.
In thinking about it, I think the main problem is that the two leads aren’t all that funny or attention-grabbing. They’re just kind of there, just a generic couple. Nor does it feel like there’s much chemistry between them.
When veterans Tony Curtis (as a high-powered theater producer) and Kathleen Turner (as a diva actress) are on the screen, the energy level is noticeably higher. Their performances are just over the top enough to give this film some of the bite and absurdity that it otherwise lacks.
As I’ve mentioned in writing about other films, it’s a given that most comedies will try to end with some kind of message, some kind of more serious turn that shows how the characters have grown, tells us about relationships, makes a point about the human condition, whatever. And some do it quite well, adding a nice little bonus to whatever laughs the movie has provided along the way.
Naked in New York’s efforts in this direction are about as perfunctory as can be imagined. (Equaled only perhaps by Monty Python in their Meaning of Life, with the crucial caveat that the Pythons’ purpose in concluding with the lamest of “life lesson” clichés was irony.) What’s the grand lesson the narrator draws from reflecting on this relationship for ninety minutes with us? “Sometimes stuff just happens.”
That’s it. Good night folks.