Detractors of Woody Allen will find little to care for in his latest film, and probably a lot to complain about. But for fans of that very distinct style of neuroses and romanticism, A Rainy Day in New York is like a comfy pair of slippers. Nothing new or fancy about them, and you know they’ve walked over the same ground again and again, but they feel like home.
Which is exactly where Allen finds himself in this whimsical tale of young love. The jazzy old tunes, the autumnal colours, the long takes of unbroken dialogue, and a rogue’s gallery of artists, misfits and the elite of the Upper East Side. Allen is squarely back on home turf, with a vision of Manhattan so nostalgic it has been idolised, no, make that romanticised out of all proportion.
Timothée Chalamet is Gatsby Welles, the ne’er-do-well son of a wealthy New York family, currently studying at an upstate liberal arts college. He’s not really interested in his education, and prefers to spend most of his time gambling in high-stakes poker games. The only reason he hasn’t dropped out of college is because of his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning). When she gets the opportunity to interview the acclaimed filmmaker Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) in New York for the college paper, Gatsby tags along and plans a romantic few days for them both in the city that never sleeps.
Unfortunately for Gatsby, Ashleigh’s encounter with the eccentric, alcoholic filmmaker sends their plans awry. As the rain pours down, the plot splits in two as Ashleigh finds herself caught up in a series of misadventures with older men—including beleaguered writer Ted (Jude Law) and movie heart-throb Francisco (Diego Luna)—whilst Gatsby, disgruntled that his romantic plans have been thwarted, reconnects with Chan (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of his ex-girlfriend.
Thematically, A Rainy Day in New York covers much of the same ground that Allen has explored in the past, but that is hardly a criticism. Most of the Woody Allen canon from the late-70s onwards have been variations on the same themes and subjects. The question that always hangs over his late-period films is whether they fall into the “classic Woody Allen” category (Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) or the “creatively bereft” (Scoop, Cassandra’s Dream). A Rainy Day in New York is somewhere in the middle.
The characters are fun, and the cast are charming, delivering Allen’s dialogue and snappy one-liners with real zest. But the success rate of the dialogue is somewhere in the 50/50 range, as some of the lines—as you might expect when written by an 80-year old and spoken by a 20-year old—land with an almighty thud. The game cast, which also includes Rebecca Hall and Cherry Jones, have just enough breezy charm to pull you through.
The film looks beautiful however, with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and Allen’s long-time production designer Santo Loquasto giving the film a golden, dream-like aesthetic, that perfectly fits with Gatsby’s (and Allen’s) fantastical nostalgia for this city. It won’t change your life in any way, but A Rainy Day in New York is a perfectly passable way to spend 90-minutes.
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Live Schreiber, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Rebecca Hall, Cherry Jones Director: Woody Allen Writer: Woody Allen Released By: Signature Entertainment Certificate: 12 Duration: 92 mins Release Date: 5th June 2020