A Rainy Day in New York Jan 15, 2020 18:45:36 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 15, 2020 18:45:36 GMT -5
A Rainy Day in New York (2019)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Directed by: Woody Allen
Selena Gomez and Timothée Chalamet in Woody Allen's 49th directorial feature.
Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet) is a neatly dressed, floppy-haired, but aimless Manhattan socialite. At 23-years-old, he attends fictional Yardley College, loves to gamble, and seemingly hits big whenever he makes a wager. He gives off the impression of someone who would rather listen to Cole Porter and Dean Martin standards, smoke like a chimney, and spend long days at the racetrack than go to class. His girlfriend is the preppy but ditzy Ashleigh (Elle Fanning), a journalism major who hails from Arizona. Gatsby envisions a weekend where the two of them enjoy indulging in fancy meals and late-night cocktails, but that changes when Ashleigh gets the opportunity of a lifetime: an interview with esteemed director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) in the middle of his recent movie-shoot.
Instead, Ashleigh spends the weekend learning of Pollard's budding existential crisis on top of the woes of his new feature. She, too, gets roped into the screenwriter's (Jude Law) personal drama when he finds his wife (Rebecca Hall) has fallen for a heartthrob actor (Diego Luna), who also takes a liking to Ashleigh. Gatsby is left to do what most unsatisfied, directionless New Yorkers do: take a walk through the crowded city streets and happen upon a friend in the middle of shooting a short film. He also links up with Shannon (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of a girl he dated way back, which ignites some complicated feelings for the lad as he's simply trying to bask in the drizzle while his girlfriend is nowhere to be found.
Woody Allen's A Rainy Day in New York is so fantastical, it might as well be science-fiction at times. It exists as a lovely pastiche, hyperidealized sometimes to a fault, with quizzical young people who speak like few young people I've met do in real life (mind you, I, too, went to a private college). It's these qualities, however, that still won me over, even if the film is a case of formula without form.
Many of the recognizable Allen tropes are present here: flowery dialog, precocious characters learning harsh realities of the far less intellectual world around them, and an abundance of relationship triangles and infidelity. Some of it doesn't always come together due to everything being so romanticized. Nonetheless, it's very pretty and comes equipped with some truths in the form of one-liners and keen observations, which counts for something.
Timothée Chalamet is a fascinating choice for the Allen archetype. He's very much a social misfit as opposed to a nebbish, luckless dweeb, and as his already decorated resume would suggest, he plays Gatsby with poise, even if, like many of the characters on display here, he does become grating. Selena Gomez is such a force because her character is the lone person who dares speak about her feelings in a direct manner. Chalamet and Fanning play Manhattanites who speak the language of waxing poetic, quoting sonnets and the like. They are broadly drawn byproducts of Ivy League academia. After a while, however, I became roped into their struggles, as trivial as they were, thanks to Allen's dreamy aesthetics and perhaps my own desire for a bit more cordiality in everyday speech and demeanor.
A Rainy Day in New York might be the most visually gorgeous Allen film of the decade alongside Midnight in Paris. Vittorio Storaro is a master of cinematography, and he loaned the same kind of dreamy, idyllic aesthetic to other Allen works such as Café Society and Wonder Wheel. Where Wonder Wheel was beautiful despite its artificial qualities, A Rainy Day in New York has a whimsical quality in its visuals. Sun-showers and periodic downpours bring out the characters' responses to sudden tumultuous changes. Gatsby is often the only one who doesn't appear to rush whilst in the rain; it turns everyone else into hasty creatures, such as when Jude Law discovers his wife has been unfaithful. It comes together during the film's touching climax, when Gatsby abruptly decides to drop out of Yardley and leaves Ashleigh on a carriage ride in one of New York's parks. The moment works on a literal and symbolic level (him walking backwards, her going forwards; him embracing walking in the rain, her telling the carriage-driver to hurry). These moments rescue the film from being too precious and empty.
Aiding in that rescue is a plethora of Allen's aforementioned one-liners; many of them feel more meaningfully observant regardless of context: "Do I really care about who wins between Grendel and Beowulf?," Gatsby opines when commenting about his assigned readings. "Maybe if I had some money on it." That's a telling character detail in itself. Others that function well in context and without: "The world is full of tragic little dealbreakers," "You can't fight charisma," and perhaps my favorite, from Gatsby... "Time flies...usually in coach. It's not always a comfortable ride"
Another face to watch arrives fairly late in the film. It's Kelly Rohrbach, who plays a beautiful hooker who helps Gatsby out in a pinch when he realizes he must now attend a party thrown by his parents sans Ashleigh. Rohrbach takes a role that could've been frivolous and fills it with class and attitude, from the moment she encounters Gatsby sitting alone at a restaurant and entertains him by speaking her language. Perhaps Allen is insinuating that a high-dollar hooker truly earns her money by being able to comfortably assimilate into any social situation, take the temperature of the room (or a potential client), and talk to him in a way that resonates. Rohrbach is strong in this sadly small role.
By Allen standards — the high ones he has set for himself after several decades of many exceptional films — A Rainy Day in New York is an average film elevated by a handful of scenes, performances, and utterly gorgeous visuals. Originally set to be distributed by Amazon Studios in 2018, the #MeToo campaign yet again caught up with Allen, revealing nothing we haven't already known for years, and Amazon reneged on their agreement to release the picture in America. It's since received a release in Poland and Italy. Allen's 49th directorial effort is essentially emblematic of what Allen's films have become in recent years: slight, serviceable affairs. The last great one we got was Magic in the Moonlight and that was over five years ago. Here's hoping the dawn of a new decade either brings out a new side of the 84-year-old workhorse or at least has him examining some of his best films (Annie Hall, Manhattan Murder Mystery, even Anything Else) and rekindling the creative energy he used to make those so special and lasting.
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Liev Schreiber, Jude Law, Rebecca Hall, Diego Luna, and Kelly Rohrbach. Directed by: Woody Allen.