“A Rainy Day in New York” Movie Review


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     Writer / director Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York”, a project shelved for over a year as a result of the filmmaker’s long ago abuse allegations causing an inability to get a distribution deal, has finally premiered on VOD and features an all-star cast headlined by Timothee Chalamet and Elie Fanning.  The film, which chronicles the adventures of a young couple during a rainy weekend in Manhattan, proves yet again the innate ability Allen possesses to write the romantic comedy genre.  Even now some four plus decades after “Annie Hall” as relationships have undoubtedly changed, the master screenwriter seems to have an uncanny understanding of the many nuances between a young man and young woman with their entire lives ahead of them.

     Allen’s characters here won’t gain much sympathy from the masses, especially given their status as high society elite types, but if anything we come to realize something many already know.  Money won’t buy happiness. And so we meet Gatsby (Timothee Chalamet), a bright but eccentric student attending college in up state New York, and his girlfriend, Ashleigh (Elle Fanning), a quirky debutant type who writes for the school paper.  In the first scene, she brings news of an opportunity to interview Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), a famous film director, in New York.  Something which immediately has Gatsby, fresh off winning twenty grand at a recent poker night, plan a lavish weekend for the fledgling couple where they can take full advantage of his hometown knowledge.

     There will be carriage rides in Central Park, drinks at old piano bars, and high dollar dinners at five star hotels, all in an effort to “fall in line” as Gatsby describes it.  As if his being with Ashleigh will somehow meet the expectations of those around him, particularly his mother and father, rather than his own.  But as we get to know Gatsby and Ashleigh, you get the feeling the chemistry is simply not there.  A thought that comes to mind when the initial plan of an early afternoon lunch is blown off by Ashleigh when after interviewing Roland, she is asked to a private screening of his latest film and accepts.  Leaving Gatsby to wander around Manhattan and inevitably run into the many characters who still populate his old stomping ground.

     One of those people is Chan (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of one of his former flames, as he stumbles upon a student film set where the lead actor hasn’t shown up and is asked if he would like to fill in.  And what does the scene entail?  A romantic kiss with Chan, of which he initially falters as thoughts of what Ashleigh would think begin to creep within his mind.  But after several takes, he musters the courage and passion necessary to properly kiss Chan, which sees her recall the ratings scale her sister once utilized to measure Gatsby’s abilities in that and other departments.  Of course, we know Allen has inserted this scene for a reason, and it turns out Gatsby will have a lot more time on his hands than he originally thought.

     As Ashleigh’s day turns into an evening with screenwriters and movie stars (played by Jude Law & Diego Luna) within Roland’s orbit, Gatsby and Chan spend the day together, as the cracks begin to show in the strikingly different personalities at play here.  And a chance encounter at The Met with his Aunt and Uncle means Gatsby must also now attend a gala put on by his parents, but without Ashleigh of whom he has no idea where she is or what she’s doing. The ensuing antics as both parties cope with their now individual situations brings plenty of laughter for the audience, while also bringing forth certain realizations that we know are inevitable.

     Every scene in “A Rainy Day in New York” is brought to vivid life courtesy of three time Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, whose compositions of the many high end New York apartments, restaurants, and hotels burst with the color and artistic nature the characters who occupy them most certainly would have intended.  Butt the core of Allen’s work, like many of the great screenwriters, is the dialogue spoken by his characters who seem to fit perfectly with the actors who play them.  It’s no secret many writers tend to create their characters based off people they know, and you get the idea early on that Allen has chosen Chalamet to play a character Allen himself likely would’ve played in the 1970s.  

     Gatsby is merely a modernized version of the same persona.  And while some of the running jokes, such as one character’s involuntary hiccups when the feeling of sexual tension begins to overcome her, garner a laugh or two, the highlight of Allen’s script is the noticeable demeanor change seen in the main players as they attempt to navigate a weekend that is not meeting their initial expectations.  It’s as if they come of age in a short forty eight hours.  Gatsby is on the receiving end of several revelations, many of which come from the unlikeliest of sources, while Ashleigh, still on a path to discovering her true self, learns important life lessons of her own.  In this sense, the character studies are nothing short of fascinating, leading to a series of decisions that indicate they may be growing up faster than we originally thought they would.  GRADE: B