After Woody Allen’s patchy recent output and a #MeToo firestorm that continues to engulf him and left Amazon cancelling his distribution deal, a frothy Manhattan-set romantic-comedy should be a home banker for the prodigious filmmaker. Beautiful movie stars, glorious Central Park backdrops, fizzy dialogue... all in the city that owns his heart. What could go wrong? Quite a lot, it turns out. ‘A Rainy Day in New York’ has all the sparkle and fizz of a sidewalk puddle. Worse, with its weak female characters and icky sexual dynamics, it leaves an oddly unpleasant taste in the mouth.
As the title implies, the film is set over a drizzly day (and night) in the city, as bored liberal arts student Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet) treats his girlfriend, aspiring journalist Ashleigh (Elle Fanning), to a romantic trip to the Big Apple. He’s won a motza on a poker game and has an itinerary packed with storied piano bars, museums and grand hotel suites. She’s more focused on the editing suite where she’s due to interview jaded director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) about his new film.
Before you can say ‘do these people not have publicists?’, the gloomy auteur is offering her a scoop (‘Of..?’ replies the not-lightning-fast Ashleigh). It turns out he hates his new $70m movie. ‘Face-changing edits’ are needed, he tells Ashleigh, before disappearing into the downpour and setting in train a search that takes in Jude Law’s frazzled screenwriter, his adulterous wife (Rebecca Hall), and eventually Diego Luna’s womanising movie star. Meanwhile, the snubbed Gatsby exchanges flirty put-downs with the sister of his ex, Chan (Selena Gomez), and mopes around town trying to avoid his mother’s starchy drinks party. It’s a screwball of sorts, only without the energy or laughs.
Whatever your views on Allen, the women in his films have regularly towered above the hapless men. Here, Chan aside, they’re little more than punchlines and plot devices. Fanning struggles to inhabit a character who veers from intellectually self-possessed to total rube from one scene to another. Chalamet, another serious talent, nails the callow conceit of his young buck, but makes the Allen zingers sound wooden and becomes ever more grating as his character descends into a form of well-heeled weltschmerz.
There are enough nice lines to remind you of older, better Allen movies (‘The out-of-work talking about the out-of-print’ is how Gatsby describes his mother’s pretentious literary salons), and no film shot by legendary cinematographer Vittoria Storaro is ever short of honeyed visuals, but the overall effect is enervating and a little depressing. Amazon won’t be kicking itself.
Available to stream now.