Woody Allen has been the subject of debate since the Me Too movement awakened allegations of sexual molestation of his daughter, with stars declaring regret working for him and Amazon Studios reneging on a four-film deal with him leading to a court case. One of those films that was part of the deal, A Rainy Day in New York, did get made though and following releases around Europe, is now available to stream in the UK.
Gatsby (Timothy Chalamet) a poker-playing, care-free individual and girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) are students at Yardley who travel to New York for the weekend so that she can interview a film director and he can take advantage by showing her around the cultural hotspots of the city. What should be a straightforward outing turns into a series of inadvertencies as each find themselves waylaid that cause chaos amongst their plans.
During their separate adventures, he finds himself acting on a film set bumping into Chan (Selena Gomez), the sister of an ex-girlfriend, desperately trying to void his aunt and uncle whilst inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visiting his brother who is reluctant to marry his fiancée for, of all things, her laugh.
Meanwhile, she ends up invited to a screening with the director (Liev Schreider) who turns out to be insecure and depressed over his film and travels around with the film’s writer (Jude Law) in pursuit of him, being caught in the middle when the writer discovers by chance his wife is cheating on him.
On paper, the film does look like a barrel of laughs with the involvement of Allen’s scribe and a talented cast, notably led by man-of-the-moment Chalamet who I’ve always seen as the new DiCaprio (who incidentally also once worked with Allen). Aficionados of his work will clearly recognise his style of using narration and depicting a culture-appreciating male at a crossroads in a city which looks as if Scorsese or the Safdies have never been to.
The issue with this is that whilst there are some moments of humour, the lack of hard laughs stop the comedy from progressing to levels that Allen has done in the past with ease. With his leads, Allen is trying to represent a new generation but this ensemble cast don’t succeed collectively with the material they’re given compared to past ensembles who have done their bit with natural flair, although the performances are certainly not bland.
Being his 48th feature film, inevitably there are going to be films from Allen that will not work. There are the likes of Sleeper, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan Murder Mystery and Midnight in Paris that represent his strongest and the likes of Love and Death, September, Celebrity and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion that represent his weaker works. Where this falls is somewhere leaning to the latter because it lacks the memorability in the key departments to stand on its own, although it is better than those films.
Quite often, the film drags on and scenes feel overlong, particularly in sequences that involve Gomez’s character who despite integral to the story actually slow the film down, though Gomez does try. A key part of the story involving Fanning’s encounter with an A-list dancer (Diego Luna) is also guilty of this the most to the point where the climactic moment of that storyline, though appreciative, feels too little, too late.
It’s enjoyable to watch sequences such as Law’s writer confronting his partner (Rebecca Hall) over her infidelity in the rain and Chalamet (eventually) realising why his brother can’t stand his fiancée’s laugh. It’s humour that may raise a smile but that is the best it can do and coupled with the pacing issues, a pace which suits most of Allen’s films fine, this one feels a bit chilly.
Whatever you believe in his private life, there is no question that Allen is one of the great American directors of the last 50 years based on the strength of those films that did work. A Rainy Day in New York may be above average, but is not successful enough to be in his top 20 films.
OUT OF FOUR STARS: **1/2