A Rainy Day in New York
A film originally from humble beginnings, A Rainy Day in New York has spent the past two years stored away on the shelf following rise of the Me Too movement and the resurrection of past accusations regarding director and writer Woody Allen. Originally filmed in 2018 and slated for release the following year, it was deemed simply unmarketable after the topical turn of events, tarnished by association. Cast members have expressed varying degrees of distaste and disappointment for the project’s fate post production. Lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Selena Gomez donated their fees to numerous charities and movements supporting social justice; meanwhile, Jude Law on the record expressed his sadness that the film may never make it to US and UK screens.
However, out of the embers it has survived, and as of 5th June A Rainy Day in New York is out in the United Kingdom, albeit under different circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic. From a blind eye, the movie appears no different to any other, featuring an exceptionally exciting cast with some of the brightest young talents in the industry presently, who grace each scene with a youthful exuberance tempered by exceptionally mature performances.
In brief, the story follows the course of events that unravel when two young, romantically-engaged college students, Gatsby (Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Elle Fanning), return to the former’s home city of New York for the weekend. Working as a reporter for the university paper, Ashleigh interviews famed yet tormented director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), a moment which, little to her knowledge, will lead her on a rollercoaster ride around New York’s movie industry and the quirky individuals that reside in it. Meanwhile, hopeless romantic and prize poker player Gatsby finds his own life’s purpose in question when he bumps into a former girlfriend’s sister, Chan (Gomez), who fills his head with a nuanced outlook to which he had become blind. As the rain beats down on the city pavements and hastens footsteps, a mere few hours will change lives forever.
It takes a certain ilk of performer to perfectly encapsulate the essence of Allen’s characters and it is safe to say the full cast have done impeccably well in bringing this screenplay to life. In true Allen fashion, the writing is witty, ever so slightly satirical and purposefully clichéd, bringing numerous hyperbolised characters from old friends to directors shooting a “modern film noir classic” together into one-take scenes, delivering dialogue that at times is entertainingly hard to believe. Chalamet is once again on form as the culturally conflicted Gatsby, lost in his own search for a time long past, finding solace in the little things that he deems make life worth living. Fanning is a joy as the uncontainable Ashleigh, thrilling to watch from start to finish, from her drive to succeed down to her sexually awkward hiccups. The supporting members have fun in their roles also; Gomez injects a sense of romanticist’s reality into the surreal world, and Law, Schreiber, Diego Luna and Cherry Jones all embrace their roles to the fullest.
New York has never looked more beautiful, thanks to the work of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, with each location encapsulating more of a period piece than a 21st-century reality, and although this could be seen as intoxicatingly nostalgic, there is an elemental charm induced by the environment. Roaming the streets in his tweed, Gatsby is every bit the Allen-esque antihero, intelligent without boundaries, clueless about his needs.
The issue is whether this Woody Allen formula, along with its characters, is exhausted. Allen’s films are certainly consistently charming, but they can also be a fatiguing dirge at the worst of times. The pacing of A Rainy Day in New York relates very heavily to its characters, in the sense that it belongs to another age of cinema. This is not to say that it isn’t beautiful to watch and appreciate in the modern day, but now cinema demands that little bit more.
Is it lazy? Perhaps, but that seems too harsh a conclusion to draw from the writing. On the contrary, A Rainy Day in New York possesses some of the sharpest social commentary and analytical conversation you will hear this year, but it comes at a cost. A certain one-liner coming from our narrating Chalamet sits harder than others; not least, the idea of oral sex being conducted at bar mitzvahs raises more than a few eyebrows upon delivery, and it is also slightly unfortunate that our leading lady, bursting with passion and innocence and so devilishly embodied, ends up being hit on by countless older men, much to her oblivion. Is this Allen’s reflection of Hollywood today?
All said and done, A Rainy Day in New York is a lovely watch – a cutesy film, if you will – and at times you really cannot help but smile, but that is about it. Nothing more, nothing less. One box ticked, a few others left blank. The rainfall at times is a magical element, pattering down on car windscreens and forming puddles in the street as lovers make their way, but as the story draws to a close the rain falls like a melancholy over the picture, harking back to an era long gone in both cinema and the director’s life. The real question is, will something new grow from it in the future? Only time will tell.
A Rainy Day in New York is released online on demand on 5th June 2020.
Watch the trailer for A Rainy Day in New York here: