02nd Jul2020

‘A Rainy Day in New York’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Timothee Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Liev Schreiber, Selina Gomez, Diego Luna, Jude Law | Written and Directed by Woody Allen

Woody Allen can be hit-and-miss these days. He’s a great writer and director. We all know that, with films like Manhattan; Annie Hall; Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona and my favourite of his films, Midnight in Paris, he has the ability to create some magical human stories when he wants to. Even fairly recently, with Blue Jasmine, he’s knocked it out of Yankee Stadium. Now, personal opinions of Allen aside, he’s created some wonderful films over the years, and so I was intrigued by his most recent one, A Rainy Day in New York.

A cast featuring the very-talented Timothee Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Liev Schreiber, Selina Gomez, Diego Luna and Jude Law, this is the story of a young couple, Gatsby (Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Fanning) who head to Manhattan when she lands an interview with a famous director with whom she’s besotted with named Roland Pollard (Schreiber). The plan is for her to do the interview for the college newspaper and then the two lovers will spend time together seeing the sights, smelling the smells and tasting the tastes of New York City. Plans, however, change course when Ashleigh is swept up in the world of film and the arts, and Gatsby is left to wander, meet old friends and question his relationships. Their experiences, once meant to be felt together, are now separate ones.

I like Chalamet as an actor. His work in films like Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird and Beautiful Boy are excellent, and I did like him here too, although there was a definite smugness to his character, a smugness that I felt should have faded somewhat as the story progressed and Gatsby (not a fan of that name here, either, got to tell ya) grew as a human being, but it didn’t really happen. There is a certain amount of pretentiousness at play in this film, not just with the way the characters, or many of them, carry themselves, but in the dialogue too. Woody Allen has always struck me as the kind of filmmaker who doesn’t involve himself in collaboration with his actors. It feels like every word spoken on screen has been written on the page by Allen himself, with no exceptions. Gatsby feels like a character Woody would have played when he was younger, and Chalamet echoes Allen in both his words, his delivery of dialogue and his insecure and odd movements. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I did feel myself wishing for something more unique about Chalamet’s performance as Gatsby, and not merely a mirror-image of Woody Allen’s performance-past.

Fanning does a good job in the role of Ashleigh, an educationally intelligent girl with naive street-smarts. She’s sparky, energetic and unsure of herself, and though there were definite issues with the weaknesses she portrayed here, I enjoyed her character and thought Fanning did a nice job. Fanning and Chalamet are the heart and soul of the film, we spend our time with one or the other as they meet, greet and revel in the company of others, be it a director, a writer, an actor, the sister of a former flame, family or an old friend. I thought everyone did a fine job in their roles, but it was these two that made the thing work. And yes, I thought it mostly worked.

I’m in no way saying that A Rainy Day in New York is on par with Allen’s best films, but it does fall in with his decent-to-good offerings over the years, like Cafe Society and Magic in the Moonlight. It is guilty of sounding pompous on occasion, with conversations between people feeling unreal and hard to imagine happening in any walk of life. I guess that’s the issue with this kind of film, it’s hard to relate to the characters on the screen. They’re rich, they encounter difficulty irregularly, their issues appear foolishly small, and their personalities are rarely likeable. Still, the story has enough whimsy and intrigue, and the performances are brought with enough gusto, that I found it hard to dislike. There’s a classic tone to things, a slick charm to the cinematography and a silly allure of the characters that it becomes something vaguely cool and forcefully interesting. It has its flaws, as plain as day, but it’s by no means a bad film, and if you’re a fan of the romantic and quirky humour and style of Woody Allen then you should give this a shot, perhaps.

*** 3/5

A Rainy Day in New York is available to rent digitally now, the film comes to DVD and Blu-ray on July 27th courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

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