How 'The Cobbler' Captures The NYC Of Yesterday

by Keertana Sastry

Despite what reviews you might read — whether good or bad — for Adam Sandler's newest film The Cobbler directed by Thomas McCarthy, there is one universal truth about the project: It deftly and respectfully shows New York City in all its glory. Clear love for the city never wavers in the film's plot or in its presentation, and that is something to really appreciate — even when, at times, the film gets a little inconsistent. The film follows a very strange yet supremely interesting idea: With the help of a supernatural machine, a cobbler discovers the ability to become any person who brings him their shoes to be mended just by trying on the pair.

At a recent press conference for the film, the actors and McCarthy chatted about the beauty of shooting in New York City and how it played into the plot of the film. They also joked about the complicated nature of playing dual characters, the most fun arguably being Method Man's portrayal of Sandler's character, Max Simkin, playing his character.

Sounds confusing? Don't worry — it was for Method Man himself, too: "I came to the assessment that I was trying to be Adam's character but myself in Adam's character's body," he said.

Steve Buscemi had the similar problem, though in reverse as (SPOILER ALERT) he plays Dustin Hoffman's character in his own body. "One of the first things I asked [Director Thomas McCarthy] was, 'so do I do Dustin?'...I mean I was really nervous thinking about it so I had to stop thinking about it because I can't do Dustin. I mean what am I going to do?" Buscemi said, before mimicking Hoffman from 1969 film, Midnight Cowboy : "'I'm walking here!'"

From McCarthy's perspective, it seemed to just be a blast letting the actors figure out how they wanted to portray the confusing concept: "It's really fun watching these guys play around with all that, though, and in their own different ways have to deal with it, and think about it. I think there was at least one moment we all got confused about who everyone was supposed to be," he said. McCarthy then jokingly added, "I know Dustin was quite a few times."

While at times the movie gets too bogged down in it's own gimmick by introducing rather jarring problems Max must solve using his special gift, the movie finds it's best moments when Sandler runs around the city assuming other people's identities. Through these trips, the smaller, lesser-advertised neighborhoods in New York are beautifully represented — just as they are through the storyline involving the wonderful Melonie Diaz, whose character Carmen is leading the charge to preserve one of the last areas of the Lower East Side that maintains an almost small-town charm.

McCarthy, Sandler, and many other members of the cast spoke about how filming The Cobbler brought back memories of the city they remembered growing up as well. Sandler brought up his time on Saturday Night Live, and Method Man spoke about growing up in Long Island.

Ellen Barkin's experience was slightly bittersweet: "I think it was nice to shoot downtown on the Lower East Side because it, in some way, is maybe the last place in the city that, to me, still looks like the New York I grew up in," she said. "And I think it's just that little pocket, because even if you get to the East Village, you're already dealing with a very, very different New York. It was nostalgic in a lovely way and also kind of angry way. I just kind of walked around and thought, 'Why don't I live in this city anymore?'"

Barkin continued by saying that, by reading the script alone, she knew she had a "very strong, personal connection" with the material because she lives in New York and has seen "the entire nature of [her] neighborhood change with the taking down of one building" on her block.

"Is it gonna happen? Yeah. Can you stop it? I don't know. But does it feel terrible? Yeah, it feels really terrible," Barkin said. "And most of the people on the block who have been there for a while are all trying to get out as soon as they get in.

A big chunk of The Cobbler follows Carmen as she and later Max attempt to fight big real-estate mogul Elaine Greenawalt (Barkin) from tearing down the neighborhood they love, and in which they grew up. The film does at times share similarities with the animated film Up, that McCarthy also cowrote, as both involve an older man being pushed out of the home in which he has lived for decades. When one reporter pointed this out, McCarthy stated that the story commonalities weren't created on purpose, but they did work out well for New York City.

McCarthy agreed with Barkin that the areas where they shot still have the "vestiges" of that old New York feel, but that it was sad to see how little remained. "I understand that development is inevitable, but it is sad to see when we're losing the sort of charm and texture of it. It's the very reason we chose to live here in the first place." McCarthy said that the idea was definitely fun to incorporate into the film.

So whether you enjoy The Cobbler or not, the film will almost certainly make you fall in love, or back in love, with the New York City that isn't normally seen on tourist visits, iconic movies, and more. This is the New York City that matters to the people who live in it and shuffle through it every day.

Images: Macall Polay (5)