Review: Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York”

Woody Allen has been under the gun lately, not only with Hachette reneging on its agreement to publish his memoirs, the continuing claim of #MeTooers that he sexually molested his daughter (there’s no evidence for that), and, connected with those accusations, some actors in his new movie, “A Rainy Day in New York,” as well as actors in his other movies, have said they regretted working with him and have donated their salaries to charity.

I’ll leave the accusations aside and just give you my brief review of the movie. My verdict before we start: it’s far from Woody’s best. In fact, with a thin plot and uneven acting, it’s barely worth seeing.

Here’s the trailer:

You can read the plot in extenso at Wikipedia (with spoilers), but in short it’s the story of a young man named Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet, clearly envisioned as a Woody Allen in statu nascendi) and his girlfriend Ashleigh Enright, played by Elle Fanning, who attend a fancy college in upstate New York. They take a weekend trip to Manhattan so Ashleigh, who writes for the school paper, can interview a famous director. Gatsby, flush with cash from his expertise in playing poker, plans a slap-up weekend with fancy dinners, carriage rides through Central Park, walks in the rain, and so on. He’s a dyed in the wool Manhattanite—a Woody Allen set in the present.

But their plans fall through when Ashleigh gets sucked into the ambit of the director (played by Liev Schreiber), his writer (played by Jude Law), and a movie star (played by Diego Luna). All three have sexual designs on Ashleigh, but she just wants her interviews. In the meantime, Gatsby runs into the sister of his old girlfriend (sister played by Selena Gomez), and is wheedled into doing a kissing scene with her for a friend’s amateur movie.

The plot gets convoluted, with Gatsby taking a hooker to his mom’s gala party, which he was trying to avoid, his mom making a surprising admission to him (who’s spurned her previously) and other twists which seem to serve no purpose save to complicate the story. In the end, some romances end and another begins, but I won’t spoil the movie.

A Rainy Day in New York is thin in plot and execution, nowhere near Allen’s best movies (I still think Annie Hall is the best, but also am fond of Manhattan and Blue Jasmine). The new one traffics heavily in Allen’s Manhattan-o-philia, with lots of piano cocktail music, hotel rooms overlooking Central Park, and atmospheric scenes of the city—almost as if Allen is using the movie as yet another love letter to his beloved Manhattan and phoning in a story confected around it. While Chalamet does a creditable job, Fanning is unconvincing as an ingenue, and Selena Gomez simply can’t act at all. The movie is a trifle, but you might enjoy it for a few hours of entertainment. It will do nothing to burnish Allen’s reputation as a filmmaker.

I noticed that the movie got only a 50% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but to preserve my independence I didn’t read any reviews. After I finish this I will. At any rate, I think you can stick a fork in Woody Allen, as he’s done.

 

9 Comments

  1. jezgrove
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Woody keeps churning out movies prolifically although I’m not sure how much quality control is applied. I read his recent memoir, Apropos of Nothing (interesting and amusing in parts, but mixed overall in my humble opinion), and he has clearly been intent on ignoring critics and going with his own instincts as to what works from the early days of his career. Doubtless, it helped back then, but I’m less convinced about how it’s working for him now. I haven’t seen A Rainy Day in New York and probably won’t. Too many of his efforts in recent years have been too reminiscent of his prior films, or otherwise unfruitful, to make the investment of time or money worthwhile, although I occasionally hear that he has produced something reasonably good. That all said, it’s extremely sad that the completely unsubstantiated allegations against him stopped the film from having a US distributor, though. His account of the allegations is very believable, and bourne out by credible witnesses and the findings of the official investigations.

  2. rickflick
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I doubt I’ll see this film based on the review. I think I’ll look up Jasmine though. I have not seen it. Seems like a decent film.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    My verdict before we start: it’s far from Woody’s best. In fact, with a thin plot and uneven acting …

    “Uneven” is an apt description of the Woodman’s entire oeuvre. But even in his weaker outings, there’s always something interesting to see. And the man’s been nothing if not prolific, churning out damn near a-movie-a-year since the late 1960s.

    The island of Manhattan he’s put on the screen is a cinematic construct unlike any other — though I thought he did some of the best work of the back half of his career in three of the four films he made during his Indian Summer run in the late oughties and early 2010s when he finally got the hell outta New York and decamped to Europe.

  4. Steve Pollard
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t seen the film, and doubt that I’ll bother; but one of the crits I’ve read this week suggests that Allen’s problem as a director is that he doesn’t do much directing. According to this critic, both Chalumet and Fanning are crying out for someone to instruct them how to say their lines and convey their meaning to the audience.

    That would fit in with what I’ve read elsewhere about Allen’s directing style.

  5. revelator60
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    The critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote an interesting piece titled “Notes Toward the Devaluation of Woody Allen” (republished here
    https://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2018/02/21337/) that asked “Why are American intellectuals so contemptuous of Jerry Lewis and so crazy about Woody Allen?”
    He hints it should be the other way around.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 7, 2020 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      FWIW, I think The King of Comedy is one of Marty Scorsese’s unheralded masterpieces, and the performance in it of Le Roi du Crazy, Monsieur Jerry, a gem (even if his character, Jerry Langford, isn’t nearly as crazy as De Niro’s or Sandra Bernhard’s). 🙂

  6. pablo
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    An English prof once told me (in regards to Pearl Buck): “Nobody that prolific can be consistently good.”

  7. phoffman56
    Posted June 7, 2020 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    I liked Zelig best. But I’m kinda peculiar.

  8. Posted June 9, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Reading other reviews along with yours just convinced me not to watch the film. Review was written nicely though. But Timothee❤❤


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