Wet with romance and soggy with outdated references, A Rainy Day in New York is meant to be a heartfelt look at human madness. It’s a portrayal of attraction – for love, for fame, for money, for impossible ideals – that is more vaporous than wise. But there is still some structural integrity to the vicious premise of star crossed lovers and mismatched lovers freaking out through a 24 hour daydream in Manhattan.
A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK ★★★(3/5 stars)
Realized by: Woody allen
Written by: Woody allen
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Liev Schreiber
Execution time: 92 mins
Did I mention that Woody Allen, allegedly pedophile and investigated but erased Hollywood outcast, directed it? This is the reason why this 2018 film that Amazon dumped is finally seeing the light of day. After an international release last year and a shallow theatrical release in the United States crippled by Covid last month, it is now being broadcast digitally. If your opinions on the longtime author are hardened, if your mind is officially closed and his work is not worth discussing, then I’m surprised you’ve read this far.
Like any enduring brand or legacy franchise, Allen films, especially comedies, typically meet basic expectations for better or worse: neurotic men obsessed with sex, mature women, and perfect postcards, stunning apartments and a fatalist. boredom lifted from happy accidents. He has been producing variations on a theme for over fifty years. And, like anything that lasts more than half a century, its cultural shorthand grows long in the tooth.
In this case, the pop hints and laid back breakdown of A Rainy Day In New York are so overly quirky, so deafingly embarrassing, that they’re actually quite quaint. Sometimes it feels like this was a script Allen had planned for 1980, but then lost in a drawer for 40 years. The main character, a disgruntled, know-it-all student (Timothée Chalamet), is literally called Gatsby Welles. Really? He says things like “My horse came over this weekend” and calls the Tony Ivy League universities “joints”. He’s the kind of guy who asks, “Can I play your piano?” then is accompanied by singing “Everything Happens to Me” in his best Chet Baker sigh. Dude is seriously buying a cigarette holder. And start using it. With a straight face. That’s enough to make Holden Caufield throw up.
This is a Woody Allen movie, Gatsby is dating a cute airhead student named Ashleigh Enright, played by Elle Fanning. They’re at the fictional Yardley College, a short drive from his hometown of New York. She landed an interview with freelance director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) for the school newspaper. The only catch is, it’s in Manhattan. But that’s good, because Gatsby just won $ 20,000 playing poker the weekend before. Again, really? But whatever.
He suggests that she take her on a little tour of the Big Apple: a suite at the Pierre and a dinner at Daniel’s, plus a quick stop at the Weegee exhibition at MoMA and drinks at the Bemelmans Bar. Gatsby’s version of a weekend in NYC reads like a tony website’s recommendations for blue-haired tourists. But yes, of course, students would probably like these things too.
She says yes, they go to the big city, and hijinks ensue that separate the duo for the rest of the day. She tells Pollard that “cinema is my total thing” and espouses her love for the movie giants. Cue the dusty name of pampered masters like Renoir, De Sica and Kurosawa. Pollard, tortured, disappears on a courvoisier.who do this?– then Ashleigh and Pollard’s screenwriter Ted (Jude Law) try to find him. This leads Ted to discover his wife’s infidelity and Ashleigh to fall into the orbit of silly Mexican actor Francisco Vega (Diego Luna).
Meanwhile, Gatsby runs into a heinous foe that refers to Gone with the Wind and Grace Kelly in the span of five minutes –no no no– and tells him about a mutual friend who is making a student film a few blocks away. This buddy makes Gatsby star in the movie, and suddenly Gatsby has to kiss sassy raven-haired beauty Chan Tyrell (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of his old flame. She quickly mentions “Gigi”, to further establish this strange parallel universe where people only watch TCM. They get along well – she’s cheeky, bright, doesn’t suffer fools – and he wonders if maybe she isn’t his soul mate.
This latest fetish ode to the filmmaker’s favorite city is creatively pale compared to previous highs in his uneven career. That said, he’s self-aware enough that Gatsby is described as “looking for a romantic dream of a past age.” And he knows enough to let go of deep sides like “the world is full of tragic little deal-breakers.” Is there something unfortunate mother / whore plot thing that would make Freud proud? Yes. But there’s also a research story about a rebellious young man who thinks he has it all figured out when he’s just starting to realize how ignorant he really is.
To describe a new Woody Allen movie as bad is just plain lazy. It’s also fashionable – just as de rigueur as saying, back then, that a forgettable ’80s film like Radio Days or a’ 90s trifle like Manhattan Murder Mystery was good. They are not, and neither were they at the time. But among his prodigious output, there are solid, sometimes surprising, works. A Rainy Day in New York City fits neatly into the lower-middle bracket: rolling fireworks, grin-inducing cartoons, but more than a few cute zingers and sometimes even a touching glimpse or two. Is it worth watching? To paraphrase Annie Hall: The success of Allen’s continued production, despite all of his personal offscreen misadventures and misogynistic onscreen schtick, really depends on how viewers crave the eggs.