By now, we all know Amazon is notorious for their two-day shipping but if your name is Woody Allen, you apparently have to wait two years for your movie to arrive. Due to be released by Amazon Studios back in 2018, Allen’s latest comedy A Rainy Day In New York was shelved after sexual assault allegations resurfaced against him amid the Me Too movement and the film finally slinks onto on demand this week. The last decade has not been particularly kind to the prolific writer-director, who followed up his critical smash, 2011’s Midnight In Paris, with a handful of releases like the middling Rainy Day that haven’t come close to matching the praise that romp received.
Allen’s tale this time revolves around Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet), a college student who takes a trip from Upstate New York into the city with his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning). On assignment to interview revered indie director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), Ashleigh splits off with Gatsby early on with plans to reunite at a fancy cocktail bar but the fates conspire to keep them separated. Ashleigh becomes further entrenched in Pollard’s work when he wants to screen his latest film for her, while Gatsby ambles around the city and runs into Chan (Selena Gomez), the sister of one of his ex-girlfriends. The misadventures of the two continue throughout the afternoon as moody rainclouds conjure up a slew of slippery scenarios among a talented cast that also includes Jude Law and Diego Luna.
It’s been a tradition among Allen’s films for the protagonist to imbue the neurotic and nebbish qualities of Allen’s persona and A Rainy Day In New York confidently follows suit with the perpetually put-upon Gatsby. While certain actors like Larry David and Jesse Eisenberg are a natural fit, Chalamet is frankly way too cool and confident to convincingly play an anxiety-ridden handwringer and I rolled my eyes nearly every time his character stammered through ten-cent words. Fanning fares much better in her role, channeling Annie Hall-era Diane Keaton energy with nervous hiccup fits and all. She’s nothing short of supremely charming as she keeps getting pulled into mishaps that get more convoluted as the story moves along.
While Allen’s screenplay features some reliably witty one-liners and exchanges by generable likable characters, its themes of infidelity and big city living hardly break new ground in his oeuvre. The direction is similarly lazy, bouncing from subplot to subplot with only a third-act monologue by Cherry Jones serving as the film’s chief inspired moment. Alisa Lepselter’s editing juggles Gatsby’s and Ashleigh perspectives well but the tempo doesn’t always lock in where it should be during the dialogue-heavy scenes. When it’s all said and done, this is a romantic’s view of New York through the eyes of a hopelessly romantic lead character and Allen is doing his best to impart that sense of metropolitan wonder.
Like fellow recent release On The Rocks, which also wrapped well before the pandemic, this film unintentionally makes one nostalgic for a time when individuals could chat closely without the necessity of a face mask. As Chalamet and company participate in maskless walk-and-talks while name-checking artists like Charlie Parker and Akira Kurosawa, I had to turn off the voice in my head yelling “don’t they know how irresponsible they’re being?” Even the simple sight of a couple huddling close to share an umbrella during a downpour inexplicably made my eyes a bit misty. Like the old soul at the center of its story, A Rainy Day In New York is an old-fashioned, escapist romance that isn’t as inspired as it should have been but isn’t as tiresome it could have been.
Score – 2.5/5
New movies this weekend:
Premiering on Netflix is Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, a Christmas musical starring Forest Whitaker and Keegan-Michael Key about a toymaker and his granddaughter who construct a magical invention in time for the holidays.
Streaming on Apple TV+ is Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, a Werner Herzog documentary about meteors and comets while investigating their influence on ancient religions and other cultural and physical impacts they’ve had on Earth.
Only playing in theaters is Freaky, a slasher black comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton that reimagines the Freaky Friday formula by body-swapping a high school student and a deranged serial killer.
Reprinted by permission of Whatzup