I’m reviewing Woody Allen’s latest film at the third attempt; the pernicious influence of cancel culture was my reason for pulling the review before publication on two other occasions last year. Of course, I’ve got no insider knowledge whatsoever as to whether Allen deserves the current resistance to his work; this isn’t a case like Weinstein or Spacey where everyone in the industry and their dog in the street had heard the same kind of story from multiple sources. The bottom line is that it’s not possible for me as a reviewer to vouch for the on and off-camera behaviour of the crew on every film I review. Films should be assessed on their merits, and A Rainy Day in New York is neither Allen’s best or worst.
The cast are young and personable; Gatsby Welles (Timothy Chalamet) and his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) are planning a day in Manhattan, since she has to interview big-shot film director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber). That interview takes her off on a wild-goose chase involving screenwriter Ted Davidoff (Jude Law) and handsome star Francisco Vega (Diego Luna), while Gatsby mopes around, smoking cigarettes and hanging out with some old pals. Gatsby strikes sparks with Chan Tyrell (Selena Gomez); will the couple re-unite at a party thrown by Gatsby’s mum, or has the Manhattan scene put a spoke in their relationship by offering up alternative partners?
Elements of La Ronde abound here, and Allen’s affection for NYC is well conveyed; there’s some beautiful shots of street-life, and some shards of the wit that’s the hallmark of Allen’s best films, or at least his early funny ones. But the characterisation is shallow, and there’s far to many Allen surrogates in the story, three by my count. Even though the journey is fairly entertaining, the punch-line, involving Gatsby’s mother’s past, is a severe downer; something seems to have soured in Allen’s worldview for this to be the pay-off. This isn’t the all-encompassing, compassionate view of Hannah and her Sisters; having shown such maturity early in Allen’s canon, there seems like nowhere for him to go.
Allen has made three substantial and lauded films in the last decade; Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine and Café Society. That would be a purple patch for most directors, but for Allen, the slew of meh fillers around them suggests a decline, and A Rainy Day in New York just isn’t in the same league as Allen’s best work. With shrill, unlikable characters of both sexes, but particularly negative female portraits, this is a sour, yet still caustic and spiky snapshot of the romantic problems of the well-off Manhattan elite.
A Rainy Day in New York is 99p on Amazon Prime in the UK
Thanks to Signature for access to this title.