Despite featuring some of the finest on-screen talents of recent years, the latest film from Woody Allen, A Rainy Day in New York, is a decidedly damp affair. Its narrative, a combination of nostalgia, affluence, and whimsey. This ultimately creates a film that feels disconnected and distant, a relic from another time. While in turn, managing to fall flat in both the romance and comedy it tries to embody. Of course, artistically, the dreamlike aesthetic of the film may well have been Allen’s intention, creating an almost theatrical and displaced reality where love can grow. However, if that was the case, the result is misguided, jarring, and dull.
In many ways, A Rainy Day in New York feels symbolic of a director purely retreading ground that led to past glory—desperately attempting to find a new audience through the talent of a new generation. However, the sparks and roar of his past romantic comedies turn to faint glowing embers in a screenplay that struggles to engage and entertain its audience. While in turn reflecting a world too distant from modern-day experience.
Gatsby Wells (Timothée Chalamet) is a student studying at the prestigious and fictional Yardley Art College in upstate New York. However, his families wealth and personal privilege cover his gambling addiction and love of Cole Porter, cigarettes, and romance. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) is a journalism major who loves film and art but lacks self-confidence in her abilities. Her love for Gatsby, sincere but also necessary in furthering her future aspirations.
When Ashleigh receives an invitation to interview a famous film director for the college newspaper in New York, both young lovers jump at the chance to head to the city for a romantic weekend. With Gatsby keen to show Ashleigh all his favourite wealthy haunts, with his recent poker winnings. While in turn avoiding his mother’s extravagant annual party at the grand family home in Manhattan. However, on arrival in New York, the big apple has other plans for the couple that lead them both to face their actual wants and desires as the rain pours down over Central Park.
While A Rainy Day in New York may look beautiful in the hands of Vittorio Storaro, this is a film that ultimately feels incomplete; its pace stunted, its performances lacklustre and direction poor. The result leaves you deflated as you wonder how the director of Annie Hall and Manhattan could get something wrong on what should have been home ground. His vision of an alternate New York reality caught in a patronising dreamlike vision of young love.
Of course, the film’s trajectory has not been helped by the sexual abuse allegations levelled at Allen but refuted in public with no charges having been brought. These allegations would ultimately leave a bad taste in the mouth of the film’s stars and the original distributor Amazon Studios. While, in turn leading many to speculate whether this would be Woody Allen’s final outing.
Whether this turns out to be the case or not, A Rainy Day in New York will no doubt find viewers thanks to a cast who manage to keep the film from drifting into obscurity. But despite occasional glimmers of brilliance that used to permeate Woody Allen’s work, the result is nothing short of a disappointing mess.
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Liev Schreiber, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna
Timothée Chalamet also appears in The King, Beautiful Boy and Call Me By Your Name