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film review

Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning star in Woody Allen's A Rainy Day In New York.Gravier Productions

  • A Rainy Day in New York
  • Written and directed by Woody Allen
  • Starring Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning and Selena Gomez
  • Classification PG; 92 minutes

Rating:

1.5 out of 4 stars


Watching, and attempting to enjoy, a new Woody Allen film in 2020 requires a substantial amount of cognitive dissonance.

Partly because of the trail of toxic allegations and headlines that have followed the director for the past few years. Partly because the movie in question, A Rainy Day in New York, isn’t a 2020 film at all, having been shot in 2017 and leaving a trail of distribution woes and legal action in its wake. And partly because, while taking place in a here-and-now Manhattan, complete with smartphones and online poker tournaments and references to the Broadway musical Hamilton, the “new” film is firmly an artifact of the past. More specifically the imaginary era of Gotham that Allen has become a permanently unstuck-in-time guest of since Annie Hall.

We all know the shtick by now – erudite young men in tweed rhapsodizing about literature and Maurice Chevalier, zippy young women walking the uneasy line of empty sex object and lovable ditz, and older men in the creative industries attempting to unburden their neuroses by sleeping with said younger women. Add a jazzy soundtrack, the familiar Windsor Light Condensed font in the opening and closing titles and a co-op apartment board’s worth of excellent actors doing their best/worst Allen impersonations, and you have the archetypical Woody joint.

Once upon a time, that might have been enough. But A Rainy Day in New York arrives today like a desperate, frequently nauseating plea to Make America Woody Again: an invitation to both absolve the filmmaker of unspecified transgressions and to get lost in a world where everyone is fabulously witty and wealthy and worth your attention. Except none of the characters or stories here merit such consideration.

Chalamet does a half-decent Allen-meets-Owen Wilson imitation, but the rest of the cast flails.Gravier Productions

From the film’s romantic lead, the college student Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet), named with a c’mon-really level of chutzpah, to his aspiring journalist girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) to the collection of film-industry types they come across during one especially damp day in Manhattan, the denizens of Allen’s new New York are faded facsimiles of the director’s glory days. Their lines are tired (“My roommate thinks you’re the best thing to come along since the morning-after pill”), their privileged predicaments without stakes (will Gatsby stay with Ashleigh or sleep with Selena Gomez’s actor character? Choices!) and their emotional growth non-existent.

The cast seems to sense Allen’s what-me-worry shrugginess, too. While Chalamet, who has essentially renounced the film by donating his salary to Time’s Up, the LGBT Community Center in New York and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, does a half-decent Allen-meets-Owen Wilson imitation, everyone else flails.

There’s Jude Law, doing a particularly manic Allen-as-screenwriter bit. There’s Liev Schreiber, engaging in a morose Allen-as-director act of cosplay. And in swoops Diego Luna, projecting what Allen must think of himself were he born a suave Latin lover circa god knows when.

Not that one bad review – or a bunch of them – will stop Allen from his remarkable pace. He just released his 50th feature, Rifkin’s Festival, in Europe. For those who prefer to live in the past, Allen will be here for a while still, eager to oblige.

A Rainy Day in New York is available digitally on-demand starting Nov. 10

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