In A New York Minute Movie Review
How many movies in film history have been made about the New York City experience? Some might say too many. The perils of life in The Big Apple is well worn territory with each new production that dares to use NYC as a backdrop approaching parody at every turn. This is what makes Ximan Li’s In A New York Minute movie so refreshing. The film presents a new perspective, combined with fantastic performances and beautiful cinematography that gives talented Asian performers the spotlight.
While the structure of In A New York Minute uses the time tested storytelling technique of parallel lives intersecting after individual vignettes take us through the plight of each character, the film forges it’s own path and manages to use this structure in a way that doesn’t feel rote or outside the ability of the filmmaker. It should be noted that In A New York Minute was produced by a predominantly female crew and almost exclusively Asian/Asian-American cast, which certainly lends to the fresh feel of the experience.
The theme of the In A New York Minute movie is presented through a question posed by a central character multiple times throughout, “Would you choose love or freedom?” This choice, as presented, takes on new meaning as the viewer begins to understand the context for each of the women who take center stage.
The opening vignette follows a food critic named Amy (played by Amy Chang), who is experiencing the fallout of a break-up through an inability to eat. The story finds the young professional trying to navigate through her world of family and work relationships, which all come with expectations for how she should be living her life. Will Amy allow herself to find love again? Is that the right path to her own happiness? What does she truly want?
Chang’s performance in the In A New York Minute movie vacillates between haunted and hopeful, but always intelligent. What feels like it could be a romantic comedy scenario, as Amy’s mother feigns illness in order to trap the single woman into yet another plea for her daughter to get married, is tinged with a darker edge in quieter moments which pull the viewer into her struggle. These tonal shifts are handled wonderfully by the director, making the story feel natural and engaging as the plot unfolds.
Jae Shin, who plays Amy’s goofy, unrelenting love interest provides a bit of levity in his attempts to help her overcome her eating disorder through preparing various meals, leading to a cutesy food montage that is very endearing. But do Peter’s affections come without strings attached? Will Amy satisfy her mother by marrying Peter or does her destiny lay elsewhere?
The vivacious Yi Liu is the focus of the next In A New York Minute movie story, playing an aspiring Chinese actress named Angel Li who copes with a loveless marriage to an American businessman, by hooking up with a Chinese-American Writer, played by Ludi Lin, for fleeting moments of passion that she hopes will become more. Angel is obviously very talented and kind-hearted, but finds herself taken advantage of or taken for granted by the men in her life. Liu’s performance is so full of life, that when the character is emotionally neglected or abandoned, the audience feels the pain.
It is Angel who is the source of the question, “Would you choose love or freedom?”, taking it from the script of a movie in which she is cast as the lead and making it her mission to find the answer. The question is posed to various characters throughout her story, becoming the catalyst for responses which reveal the true heart of those to whom she presents the query. It is a question to which she herself has not yet found an answer.
The final story revolves around a young woman named Nina (played by Celia Au), an escort who spends her time with various clients in karaoke bars to save up money that will allow her to gain freedom from the obligation to work in the family restaurant. The most tortured of the 3 protagonists, Nina must contend with a selfish step-mother who extorts money from her, tucking away the proceeds of the business for her slacker son’s college fund instead of paying for Nina’s father’s growing medical bills. The devious performance by Yan Xi as the stepmother is truly a standout role.
The weight of the financial burden is only alleviated by the optimistic food truck owner and aspiring restauranteur, Ian (played by film) who looks past the seedy side of Nina’s work and sees only her heart, which he feeds with sincere and pure love. Nina’s story is a true tragedy and Au does a wonderful job conveying the conflicting emotions present in the life of her character, who can’t seem to escape unfair nature of the real world.
One surprising motif that is present throughout the In A New York Minute movie is vomiting, so if you’ve got a weak stomach, beware. Many of the main characters find themselves vomiting for reasons specific to their characters and it happens so often, it can’t be mere coincidence. The symbolism seems to make literal the concept of being lovesick, but viewers can surely draw their own conclusions.
Though In A New York Minute doesn’t focus in any heavy-handed way on the Asian experience in the United States, it does naturally provide cultural context that could be enlightening for some viewers and certainly adds to the original nature of the film, as does the writing of Ximan Li. The dialogue is smooth and natural, the pacing of the individual stories and interweaving moments all pay off in a satisfying way, with no plot threads left dangling and the resolutions, though sometimes shocking, feel earned. This is a complete story, not just a test reel from a first time Director.
So it turns out there is room for one more New York based film in the cinema landscape. The In A New York Minute movie comes highly recommended from this reviewer, especially since female led dramas are not my preferred source of entertainment. The mere notion that I would get emotionally involved in these stories point to a promising career for this seemingly fully-formed directorial voice.
In A New York Minute is available on digital May 3rd from Gravitas Ventures.
May 22, 2022 @ 9:50 am
The movie have a gloomy feel to it but I understand because New York can be a depressing place to live on. It is refreshing to see Ludi Lin in a movie where he doesn’t need to do Martial Arts. He is a romantic lead instead.
June 3, 2022 @ 1:05 pm
Finally a movie that portrays the Asian American experience. No one is a stereotype and we get to see them as people and not some diversity casting token.
June 4, 2022 @ 6:42 pm
Oh wow! Yes there have been a bazillion movies about New York City and I’ve probably watched most, if not all of them. This one I would want to watch because of the vignette format and the question “Love or Freedom”. But the expression, “a New York minute” is something my mother used to say all the time. I don’t know why. We lived in Florida. I would watch this movie just for that reason alone.
June 28, 2022 @ 12:28 am
I heard Rumors that Ludi Lin will be the live action version of Son Goku.