By Christian DiMartino
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe Dylan Farrow’s nearly 30 year old accusations towards Woody Allen, and those who, like, don’t. Personally, I do not, because I’ve looked into the details of the case and certain things don’t match up. Plus, it seems very likely that Mia Farrow suffered a mental breakdown, went cuckoo, and brainwashed her children into believing it. If it’s ever revealed to be true, then I deeply apologize. Until then, I’m going to go with Allen, who is only really guilty of having an affair with Soon Yi Previn (he did go about that in a cruel manner, but that’s another story). Since the world is the way that it is now though, it seems socially unacceptable to side with Allen, no matter what proof (mostly because Twitter and Ronan Farrow told us so). So because of that, the other side has won, and because of it, Allen’s last film, A Rainy Day in New York, has not seen the light of day in the US. I, being an American, was not going to miss it though, and have finally seen it, compliments of a friend’s Amazon Firestick.
I have been an Allen fan for the better part of 10 years. With that, it must be said that with his recent films, while still enjoyable for a devotee, you have to take them for what they are. Allen knows what he likes to write about, and for decades wrote a movie a year. So it’s no surprise that he tends to recycle ideas. He has a decent way of dressing them up, but they’re roads frequently traveled. But I’m okay with that, and so I approach each new one with optimism. If it turns out to be “Great Woody” (the last being Blue Jasmine), great. If it turns out to be “Fine Woody,” fine.
A Rainy Day in New York, scheduled to be released in 2018, is Lesser Woody. To some, that means it’s awful. To me, it means it’s okay. I don’t think I fully dislike a single one, and I don’t fully dislike this one either, but the script could’ve used a touch up or two.
When Allen doesn’t star in his films, he has someone fill his spot. This time, that someone is Academy Award nominee Timothee Chalamet, of the excellent Call Me By Your Name. Chalamet plays Gatsby, and no that is not a last name. Allen loves old literature, music, movies, you name it, and even I thought this name seemed like a bit much. That is, until you meet Gatsby’s mother, a debutante played effectively and briefly by Cherry Jones. Anyways, Gatsby (can’t get over that) is in a seemingly happy relationship with Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) in a small town. If you hear the words “seemingly happy couple” and “Woody Allen movie,” you get the sense that it won’t last, but Allen did throw me off of his scent here. Well sort of. Ashleigh is a journalist for her college paper, and gets the chance to interview a famous filmmaker (Liev Schreiber) in New York.
Off to New York they go. Ashleigh meets the filmmaker, who expresses his distaste for his current project. She also meets the film’s writer (Jude Law) and gets caught up in a confrontation between him and his wife (Rebecca Hall, a Woody denouncer). She also meets the star of the film (Diego Luna), who is pretty infatuated with her. I sort of expected these story lines to connect a little better than they do, but each segment is fairly amusing. Meanwhile, Gatsby (that name) gets caught up with the sister of an ex-girlfriend (Selena Gomez), all set to the backdrop of a very rainy day in New York.
In a surprising turn of events, the key flaw in A Rainy Day in New York just might be Chalamet. Here is an excellent actor who feels really miscast. The reasons why are hard to put my finger on too. It often seems like he’s an Englishman trying to do an American accent, even though Chalamet is American. Plus, some people play the role of Woody Allen well, and he just feels out of place. His line delivery feels off on many occasions, even when he is delivering lines that are otherwise decent. Gomez is good, but onscreen even her performance is kind of thrown out of whack because of Chalamet’s delivery. It’s really bizarre, or maybe he just comes across as smug. Either way, Chalamet is an Allen-denouncer too, but maybe he chose to denounce the film because he knew his performance didn’t work.
In another surprising turn, Fanning is actually pretty good here. Having said that, Allen usually does write really good roles for women. A Rainy Day in New York does a fine job in somehow bringing out the magic of New York, even in the rain. It’s handsomely filmed by Vittorio Storaro, the legendary cinematographer of Apocalypse Now and Reds; the apartments look majestic; etc.
A Rainy Day in New York is an amusing little movie, but also something of a mixed bag. While it is familiar, Allen does sort of spice up the narrative… all for it to conclude in a familiar manner. Familiar for Allen, that is. I also had a hard time imagining Gomez, Chalamet and Fanning talking about “old things,” as most Allen characters do. I get that he writes the same way he thinks, but some of the references could’ve used a polish. Then there’s also, again, Chalamet, but also, at the last minute the film gives off the vibe that it was supposed to have meaning. Something along the lines of what he did with the Rachel McAdams/ Owen Wilson relationship in Midnight in Paris, but it doesn’t feel quite as developed.
Yet just when I didn’t think it was working, Allen would always come back and surprise me with a sharp one-liner, and there are some really good ones here. A Rainy Day in New York is enjoyable even with its faults. It may not be for non-believers, but for me, it worked well enough. His next film, the Spain-set Christoph Waltz/Gina Gershon starrer Rifkin’s Festival, is already done filming. Even when we get “Lesser Woody,” we can still hope that “Great Woody” is around the corner. That is, if Hollywood, Twitter, and Ronan Farrow ever give us the chance to see it.