New Year’s Eve is bound to be less brash this year – some would ever say melancholic. Strangely many classic New Year movies tend to bend towards a sense of melancholy amid the celebrations, most memorably Billy Wilder’s classic comedy-drama The Apartment (1960). That film at least has a hopeful ending.
Unlike say Sunset Boulevard (1950), Splendour in the Grass (1961), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Godfather Part II (1974) and especially Looking for Mr Goodbar (1977).
Still, things perk up in more recent pictures set on New Year’s Eve; here’s a selection to see 2021 in with; some good, some so-so, and some, well…not so great:
About Time (2013) – Amazon Prime & Netflix
For me, an enjoyment of work of Richard Curtis is a taste that I’ve so far singularly failed to acquire, so my view of his saccharine nonsensical time travel comedy should be seen through this lens.
Not even the great Bill Nighy can rescue a story of a family where the men (why not the women?) have the limited ability to go back in time to critical moments in their own lives – and possibly change them to create a ‘better’ present for them.
Nighy (as patriarch James) tells his son Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) of their unique ability after his offspring flunks a likely romantic encounter at New Year’s Eve party the previous evening.
Much like Curtis’ Yesterday (2019), the central conceit can easily be pulled apart by those with the inclination and time to do so.
Still, the picture raked in $88.5m at the box office for this modest $12m production, so what do I know?
New Year’s Eve (2011) – Amazon Prime
Much like the locust-like franchise ‘I Love You’ city movie series (Paris, New York, Berlin, Rio, Shanghai, Ipswich etc) I sometimes wonder who actually watched any of the late Garry Marshall’s trio of holiday/special day themed comedy-drama ensemble pictures.
New Year’s Eve followed Valentine’s Day (2010) and preceded Mother’s Day (2016).
As the film took in $142m on a $56m budget, New Year’s Eve obviously tempted a fair few punters into the cinemas.
An all-star cast (including Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Marshall regular Héctor Elizondo, Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, and Sofía Vergara) experience various happy/sad/serendipitous and contrived incidents in the hours before the Times Square Ball drops.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007) – Amazon Rent/Buy
This bittersweet Indie romantic comedy attracted critical praise with its tale of Wilson, 29-year-old misanthrope newly arrived in LA who scores a New Year’s Eve date via a Craigslist personal ad placed by one of his few remaining friends.
Scoot McNairy (Argo, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) stars as Wilson, with Sara Simmonds as his NYE date Vivian.
How do they fare? I guess you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.
Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) -Amazon Rent/Buy
Although not a patch on John Carpenter’s 1976 original, director Jean-François Richet’s (Mesrine) efficient remake is decent actioner, aided by a strong cast that numbers Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, Ja Rule, Drea de Matteo and the late Brian Dennehy.
The setting is relocated from LA to a snowbound Detroit on New Year’s Eve where a soon-to-be abandoned police precinct finds itself under siege from corrupt cops eager to off an arrested crime lord (Fishburne) who has enough evidence to put them away.
About a Boy (2002) – Netflix
Hugh Grant gives a pitch perfect performance as selfish rotter Will Freeman in the Weitz brothers highly enjoyable adaptation of the Nick Hornby (not an author I naturally gravitate to) novel.
Caddish Will meets the love of his life Rachel (played by Rachel Weisz) at a New Year’s Eve dinner.
Top notch acting all round, with a young Nicholas Hoult nailing the role of Marcus Brewer, Freeman’s faux son who he uses to win over single mothers who catch his eye.
Part of the fun for me is spotting the familiar sights of Clerkenwell in the picture, where I lived for many years.
Someone Like You (2001) -Amazon Rent/Buy
An early-ish role for Hugh Jackman as womanising TV talk show producer Eddie Alden, who may not be quite as shallow as he first appears.
Ashley Judd stars as Eddie’s lovelorn fellow producer Jane Goodale, who’s stood up by a weaselly Greg Kinnear on New Year’s Eve. Rom-com regular Marisa Tomei also appears, along with an underused Ellen Barkin.
200 Cigarettes (1999)
The scuzzier flipside to 2011’s New Year’s Eve, this ensemble comedy takes us back to a NYE party in 1981’s Manhattan.
Reviews were decidedly mixed, but you may want to give 200 Cigarettes a chance as the cast includes Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Dave Chappelle, Janeane Garofalo, Gaby Hoffmann, Kate Hudson, Courtney Love, Jay Mohr, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci and Paul Rudd.
Elvis Costello also appears as himself; in a vague coincidence he also supplied the title song to the British New Year’s Eve comedy Party Party (1983).
Boogie Nights (1999) – Amazon Rent/Buy
Paul Thomas Anderson’s LA porn industry drama may not immediately spring out to the reader as a New Year’s Eve movie, but one particular scene will remain in the memories of viewers.
At a New Year’s Eve party to usher in 1980, assistant skin flick director ‘Little’ Bill Thompson (William H Macy) discovers his repeatedly unfaithful wife (played by real life porn star Nina Hartley) in flagrante delicto. Suffice to say things don’t end well.
For superhero film fans, the cast includes a number of Marvel movie alumni, with War Machine (Don Cheadle), The Punisher (Thomas Jane), Dr Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Iron Man’s dad (Robert Downey Snr) all featuring in Boogie Nights.
End of Days (1999) – Amazon Rent/Buy
New Year’s Eve 1999 and Satan is planning a comeback in the shape of possessed NY banker Gabriel Byrne. Who can stop him?
Why Arnold Schwarzenegger of course, playing burned out detective Jericho Cane (oh yes).
Byrne is particularly good value in Peter Hyam’s silly action-horror, with support from a typically understated Rod Steiger, our own Miriam Margolyes, Kevin Pollak, and horror icon Udo Keir. Subtle End of Days ain’t; one character is actually called Thomas Aquinas.
Trading Places (1983) – Amazon Buy
To my mind, John Landis’ Trading Places is one of the funniest comedies ever made.
In a throwback to the screwball movies of the 1930s, Trading Places sees arrogant commodities director Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Ackroyd) thrown on the street when his bosses The Duke Brothers (superbly played by screen veterans Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) embark on a ‘nurture vs nature’ wager.
Winthorpe’s place as manager at Duke & Duke is taken by street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy).
When Murphy gets wind of the bet and further Duke chicanery, he teams up with Ackroyd to take the brothers down, aided by Jamie Lee Curtis’ streetwise prostitute Ophelia and Denholm Elliot as Winthrop’s butler Coleman.
Not usually known for comedy, Elliott is a treat as the essentially sweet-natured ‘Gentlemen’s Gentleman’.