This atypical Merchant Ivory film is set in a contemporary backdrop--the trendy art milieu of New York City's Lower East Side. Based on Tama Janowitz's short story collection, SLAVES OF NEW YORK is a comic portrait of Manhattan's bohemian art scene, complete with an eclectic ensemble of artists struggling to succeed in their work and love lives. The film focuses on ditzy, insecure hat designer Eleanor (Bernadette Peters); her uncaring painter boyfriend, Stash (Adam Coleman Howard); and their oh-so-hip friends. Eleanor feels torn between keeping up the superficial image that wins approval from her avant-garde peers and her desire to have an ordinary, conventional life. When ambitious artist Daria (Madeleine Potter) turns her attentions toward Stash, Eleanor's already precarious relationship becomes even more jeopardized. Although SLAVES OF NEW YORK seems to be a radical departure for director James Ivory away from his typical period dramas, the themes in the movie recognizably parallel other Merchant Ivory films. Eleanor, a displaced young woman struggling to come to terms with a changing society, is similar to the heroines in A ROOM WITH A VIEW, THE BOSTONIANS, and QUARTET.