Slaves Of New York

Tama Janowitz adapts her own collection of stories in James Ivory’s mainly studio-shot movie (1989) about the downtown art scene in Manhattan, a world of self- absorbed male artists, their girlfriends, and others struggling to promote themselves. Bernadette Peters plays the central character, and good as she’s been elsewhere as a foil to Steve Martin, she’s pretty much defeated by the studied flakiness of both her character (who often recalls the heroine of I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing in her helplessness, naivete, and Woody Allen-like nebbishness) and the movie as a whole, which etches out a view of Manhattan bohemia that’s every bit as caricatured as in Funny Face (without the benefit of Fred Astaire or Audrey Hepburn). Offering a view of predators and victims that mainly winds up being too cute for words (or images, for that matter), the film tries so hard to be with it that it winds up on another planetand not a very interesting one at that. With Chris Sarandon, Mary Beth Hurt, Madeleine Potter, Adam Coleman Howard, Nick Corri, Charles McCaughan, and Mercedes Ruehl. (JR)

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