'The Last New Yorker' is a Downer

By Ed Koch
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Regrettably, there are not many interesting films to see at this time. Since I write two movie reviews for publication each week, I decided to see The Last New Yorker after reading Stephen Holden's review in The New York Times. He wasn't precise in describing the story line, but his comments about the film providing a tour of Manhattan's sites from the view of a lonely, elderly, near down-and-out man, intrigued me.

Lenny (Dominic Chianese) is in his late 70's or early 80's. He has one close friend, Ruben (Dick Latessa), who behaves like a puppy in his presence. Ruben is married to a woman we never meet. A sort of romance takes place between Lenny and Mimi (Kathleen Chalfant). Throughout the film, the seniors' self-esteem falls even lower, and they seek to escape their unsatisfying lives. Lenny nooses himself, but is diverted by a phone call.

I thought the dialogue between the parties was inadequate, the script preposterous, and the attempt to visually capture the uniqueness of New York City a failure. Chianese was superb in his role as Uncle Junior in the HBO series The Sopranos, but he's not as marvelous in this film portraying a relatively honest New Yorker who, at the end of his life, thinks he can pull off a Ponzi scheme.

I first saw Kathleen Chalfant perform in her one-woman, off-Broadway show, "Wit," in which she portrayed Vivian Bearing, a woman dying of cancer. I never forgot that performance. She was just as wonderful and elegant in this film as she was in that play.

I saw The Last New Yorker at the Quad Cinema, located at 34 West 13th Street. The audience cheered when the picture ended. When a couple asked me what I thought of the film as I was leaving the theater, I said, "I'm not there yet. I have to think about it." The man replied, "That's the way we feel, and we are relatives." Then I understood why there was so much applause. The theater was probably filled with relatives of the director, writer, and actors who spoke after the performance.

HS said: "This is a buddy movie about an odd couple of men who are old, poor and lonely, except for each other. The pair attempt to escape to a better life, one through a hopeless romance, the other through both of them leaving New York. Although intermittently interesting because of the city scenes, the picture is a downer. Those of us who are not already old will grow old if we are fortunate. The movie is not terrible by any means. Kathleen Chalfant is particularly good. It was enjoyable to see Uncle Junior, who by the way is a graduate of City College, in a more demanding role. In the end, I started to feel sorry for the film, but that is not what most people pay $12.50 for, not counting popcorn".

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