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Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

New York? New York? - what is going on lately? The drama of Mean Streets, Do The Right Thing and relationship comedy of Woody Allen is getting swept aside by a new strain - in more ways than one - of comedy dramas that desperately want you to feel for the 'plight' of the put-upon middle-class.

First Uma Thurman was attempting to evoke pity with her Motherhood character, whose life was marred by the oh-so-sympathy-inspiring problems of a multiple-floor walk-up and the difficulties of parking, then Carrie and her chums popped back to remind us that being married and priviliged sucks in the city, too. Now, just when you thought it was safe to go to the deli again, Nicole Holofcener is on-hand to try to drum up sympathy for Kate. Her 'problem'? Well, she's struggling with the fact that she's so well-off.

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The poor thing. There she is, living in her swish apartment with hubby Alex (Oliver Platt), waiting for the old lady in the apartment next door - which she and Alex happen to own - to shuffle off this mortal coil so that they can knock it through and live in an even more swish apartment. Needless to say, her relationship with the old dear's granddaughters (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) is somewhat tense. And in case all this middle-class guilt isn't enough, she also feels bad about clearing people's houses after their loved ones have died on the cheap and then sell it on as 'retro' at a marked-up price. Throw in some marital angst and Hall and Peet's sibling squabbling and the scene is set for drama - and yet what actually happens is very little.

The acting quality is strong, especially from the ever-reliable Catherine Keener as Kate, but it's almost impossible to care about her character's dilemmas. These people may be sorry they are rich but it seems Holofcener just wants you to laugh at it a little and move on, as they continue their self-centred existences. It wouldn't matter so much if the writer/director was seeking to undercut some of this privilege but what the film appears to be saying is that it's okay to be materialistic, as long as you occasionally wring your hands about it first.

A feeling of deja vu is also beginning to haunt Holofcener's films as yet another ensemble cast does very little for 90 minutes. There are sporadic moments of humour but many of the situations come over as unbelievable and/or contrived, while the shifting tone of the film means it never settles into a groove. Holofcener fans, who just want more of the same, will doubtless come away happy, anyone else will simply find it tiresome and self-satisfied.

Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2010
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Ensemble comedy drama explores the angst of middle-class New Yorkers.
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Director: Nicole Holofcener

Writer: Nicole Holofcener

Starring: Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Sarah Steele

Year: 2009

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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