Packed with star power and played out on a Manhattan-shaped canvas, A Rainy Day in New York is unmistakably a Woody Allen film. However, the director’s latest, which is only now being released after a protracted legal battle with Amazon (not to mention the controversy surrounding Allen) lacks the energy of Annie Hall and Manhattan. Instead, the soggy romance feels like a film created on autopilot.
Gatsby Welles (Timothy Chamalet) is the Woody Allen avatar in this instance, a Yardley College student who is rubbing up against his parent’s influence. When his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) is given the chance to interview world-famous director Roland Pollard (Liev Schrieber) in New York for the college newspaper, Welles suggests they make a weekend of it. Unsurprisingly, Pollard’s eccentricities, Welles’ misadventures and the New York rain all derail these plans and the pair are separated.
A Rainy Day in New York Video Review
Allen’s script is occasionally spry and dotted with sharp one-liners, but seems anachronistic; like he’s picked up a roster of characters from the 70s and placed them in the present day. The central relationship between Gatsby and Ashleigh is strangely formal, while the friendships shown throughout appear similarly stilted. Perhaps that’s how Allen’s world of the New York elite really interacts, but there isn’t enough zip to prevent it grating.
Welles himself is cautiously narcissistic, a character who is in love with his own self-imaging. Perhaps that’s no surprise when your name is a composite of Jay Gatsby and Orson Welles. Yet he is surely written as a reflection of Holden Caulfield, the enigmatic lead of The Catcher In The Rye, who criticises a world he sees as unbearably “phoney.” Priding himself on his worldly-wide nous, it instead can come across as obnoxious. Only when his self-pity is confronted by the punchy Chan (Selena Gomez) does he start to become a bit more interesting.
Meanwhile, though hoping to gain a scoop for the college newspaper, Ashleigh is pulled deeper into the strange world of the movies. Her initial meeting with the superstar actor Francisco Vega (Diego Luna) is initially quite funny, but becomes increasingly seedy. Ashleigh’s earnestness is draped in naivety, something which is taken advantage of by the leering Vega. Given the controversy which continues to surround Allen – and the vital Times Up and Me Too movements in Hollywood – it feels completely tone-deaf to play this for laughs.
It’s hard to know whether Allen is trying to make a comment on the gap between adolescence and full adulthood which Gatsby and Ashleigh find themselves in. Or about the ways in which celebrity culture operates. Due to the closing scenes, it could even be an arch comment on the hypocrisies of the elite. It’s easier to surmise that A Rainy Day in New York comes to us from a director who is potentially running out of creative steam.