December 9, 2011

‘New Year’s Eve’ brings much to celebrate

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 7:50 pm by dinaheng

Love, forgiveness, hope and new adventures beckon every time we turn the calendar page to a new year, and director Garry Marshall’s ode to “New Year’s Eve” reminds audiences that at any moment, we all can create our lives anew.

A multitude of Hollywood’s A-list stars can be seen in the film — now out in theaters — that weaves a montage of storylines together around the countdown to the ball drop in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

While there are two or three storylines too many in this film, the romantic romp and reminder of love’s importance in our lives — no matter how young or how old we may be — is worth seeing.

One character that many will relate to is Hailey, a 15-year-old played by Abigail Breslin who longs for independence and her first kiss in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, rather than sitting at home, as usual, with her mom (Sarah Jessica Parker) watching the festivities on TV.

“Hailey loves her mom and never wants to be mean to her,” Breslin says. “Her parents are divorced, and she wants her mom to have a life, so she’s wise in that way. But Hailey tries to show that she’s not a child anymore, and ends up pushing it too far.”

When her mom nixes Hailey’s request to hang out in Times Square with her friends, the rebellious teen sneaks out anyway. What she sees when she catches up to her classmates breaks her heart… for the moment.

Breslin, now 15, has been acting since age five, and is perhaps best known for her role in the irreverent comedy “Little Miss Sunshine.” “New Year’s Eve” marks her first on-screen kiss, and she says actor Jake T. Austin “was very nice” in their scene together.

Her New Year’s Eve will probably be spent watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV with her family, and while one New Year’s resolution may or may not be to stop biting her fingernails, “I really want to learn bar chords on the guitar next year,” she says.

“I’m in a band with my friend Cassidy Reiff called CABB, and we wrote a song called ‘Well Wishes’ that’s on YouTube,” explains Breslin. The song, in honor of a terminally ill girl named Alice, urges fans to get tested to become bone marrow donors (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6bg-eFig5A).

When she’s not working on music, she enjoys being on set, learning about different personalities as she prepares to play different characters. This is her third Marshall film, making her part of the cast and crew that the director uses regularly in his movies.

“Getting to work with Garry three times is such an honor,” Breslin says. “It’s like having another grandfather.”

She’s also a fan of Hector Elizondo, a longtime member of the Marshall repertory who’s appeared in every one of Marshall’s 17 feature films.

“I never got to be in a scene with Hector, but he’s really cool,” Breslin says. “He came in on one of my scenes with Sarah Jessica Parker, holding a piece of cake, as a joke. I’ve talked with him a little bit, and he’s a fantastic actor.”

Elizondo, an eloquent man at ease with everyone, plays a gifted engineer named Kominsky in the film, a part written specifically for him.

“We invented Mr. Kominsky, who brings the light to the darkness,” says Elizondo, a native New Yorker who relishes his collaborations with Marshall. “My character is a man who lost his job because he was a whistleblower. He told them the ball wasn’t going to drop one day, and when he was proven right, they brought him back and made him head of the department. Without the ball and no light, no movie.

“Garry and I have made movies like this forever. The only rule we apply is that my character must help the narrative along. It’s not how long the character’s in the movie, but if the character makes a difference.”

For example, while Elizondo was on screen for less than 10 minutes in the film “Pretty Woman,” anyone who saw the movie would instantly recognize him as the discreet hotel manager Barney Thompson. Or they might remember him as Joe, the bodyguard to Julie Andrews’s character in “The Princess Diaries” franchise.  Or his role as Edgar in “Valentine’s Day.”

“Garry and I are both about the same age; we’re from New York; we love comedy, music, and we have a tendency to like happy endings because we know that life doesn’t guarantee anything,” Elizondo says. “But we also have differences. Part of my psyche is still in the past, thinking about what might have been better. Garry looks back for a moment, then says, that’s enough. Let’s move on. We are a good marriage. I  make him think about things he might have skipped over, and he makes me move on.”

“New Year’s Eve,” Elizondo says, asks the question, what is success? And like all Marshall films, the answer that is given is that success is the capacity to love.

“It’s all about love and connection,” Elizondo says. “This movie is a wonderful contrivance about starting over. I don’t have to be a dummy. I can make up for some of the stupid things I did. I can get a sense of gratitude, and do things better next year.  Art changes you. Otherwise, it’s just entertainment, which doesn’t change the way you  make human connections. Good music makes you listen, and good movies lift you.”

“New Year’s Eve” is a feel-good-movie that will make you want to do more, appreciate  more, and love more in the coming year. Now that’s something worth celebrating.

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