Coming on the back of his autobiography Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen‘s A Rainy Day In New York lands on the small screen this week. Will it be showered with praise or is the forecast for a total washout?
When Gatsby Welles accompanies his girlfriend Ashleigh to Manhattan to interview an eccentric film director, his plans for a romantic weekend are dashed through a series of chance encounters and romantic misadventures.
“New York was his town. And it always would be.”
It is safe to say that despite the appearance of various ingenues in his films over the years, the city of New York is Allen’s ultimate muse. It is where he has done his best work.
He was at his peak in the late Seventies with Annie Hall and Manhattan. Following his European tour in the Noughties, he returned to the Big Apple with Cafe Society and Wonder Wheel. These films were set in the 30’s and 50’s and there is now a feeling Allen is firmly stuck in the past. Well, at least in terms of his view of New York.
In Manhattan, Allen’s character remarked that he “romanticised it all out of proportion”. That romanticised nature bleeds through every aspect of the filmmaking process. Whereas filmmakers such as Spike Lee & The Safdie Brothers show New York as it is today, Allen still portrays New York as the New York we know from the movies.
The hazy, sheen of cinematography that makes the streets glow. Familiar locations such as Central Park and The Carlyle Hotel feel like a film set. Albeit one occupied by Rich, white upper & middle-class Americans.
As a result, the younger characters talk as though they are in a movie. Not as young people would talk today. Allen seems to be unable to adapt his style to a younger demographic.
Timothee Chalamet manages to successfully bridge the gap as the Allen-proxy, the inexplicably monikered Gatsby Welles. He has the look of a man out of time, one who could exist perfectly in any era. He convinces as a young man whose wants and desires change as quickly and frequently as the weather.
There are moments where he allows Allen’s caustic wit to shine through, like a ray of sunlight breaking through the dull cloud. For example, Gatsby’s reply to being told at the end of a frustrating day that time flies, “Yes, but it flies coach”, or debating the merits of the oldest profession, “let’s not split pubic hairs“.
Sadly the same can’t be said for the female leads. For while Elle Fanning is a fantastic young actress, here she is reduced to the comically ditzy, blonde who, inevitably and unsurprisingly, becomes the object of affection for three older men.
A script containing constant miscommunications, chance encounters, awkward situations and romantic misunderstandings has all the makings of a traditional farce. However, it sticks firmly in its lane as a romantic comedy. One that simply doesn’t have enough chemistry to be romantic or enough wit or a zingers for the comedy.
Ultimately this film is not memorable enough to rank highly in the back catalogue of Allen’s New York Stories. It is merely a moment that will be lost in time, like tears in A Rainy Day In New York.
A Rainy Day In New York is available on Premium On Demand platforms from 5 June.
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Timothee Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Selena Gomez
Runtime: 92 minutes