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USA 2019
Directed by
Woody Allen
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Rainy Day In New York, A

Synopsis: Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet) is a college student from a wealthy Manhattan family whose girlfriend, Ashleigh (Elle Fanning), an ambitious student journalist from Arizona lands an assignment to interview a famous auteur (Liev Schreiber) in New York. Gatsby arranges for them to stay the weekend in The Big Apple so that he can show his provincial lassie the sights of his home town. Things don’t go to plan however…  

Just the title of Woody Allen’s latest film tells you everything you need to know about this autumnal rom-com set in the director’s hometown (which is Manhattan rather than “New York’ and the up-market end of it at that) with a diverse roster of well-known movie stars trotting out the director’s witticisms (which are more clichés than bon mots) in a formulaic and forgettable ninety minute diversion that other than the cast and the setting differs little from many of Allen’s other films in recent years (think of Café Society (2016), Magic In the Moonlight (2014) and Midnight in Paris (2011).  

Over the past three decades Allan has honed a production line approach to film-making:  a rom-com template peppered with middle-brow cultural references, a jaunty directorial style backed by liberal samplings from the Great American Songbook and wrapped up by an efficient production team including production designer, Santo Loquasto and director of photography Vittorio Storaro. A Rainy Day In New York fits this mold to a tee. In fact it is little more than mold.

For some inexplicable reason, given that Allen’s demographic is the dwindling baby boomer generation who clasped him to their bosom back in the glory days of Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) Allen has chosen to make his two leads twenty year olds. Not they are credibly like any college student of today. Gatsby (Allen repeats the name innumerable time) has an appetite for high stakes poker and jazz piano. Ashleigh is some kind of gushing preppie from the early '60s in argyle patterned mini-skirts and snuggly-fitting cashmere tops. Why they would be together is impossible to fathom given Gatsby’s savior faire and her nervy witterings. 

Characterization is Allen’s strong suit but here his skills fail him.  Chalamet, as many before him have done, plays Allen’s alter ego but he doesn’t do it well enough. His comic timing is wanting and he's too laid back to bring off the director’s amusingly neurotic whinings.  Fanning is lumbered with similar convoluted lines and manages them only slightly better amidst an excess of gushing (and Allen contrives to get her down to bra and panties). Schreiber and Jude Law barely warrant a mention so inconsequential are their parts and only Selena Gomez as the younger sister of Gatsby’s high-school girlfriend stands out with her caustic cynicism.

As usual Allen lards his script with all manner of easy allusions. He makes much use of travel brochure locations with Central Park featuring large including a carriage ride like a scene out of Barefoot in the Park (1967) with Fanning dressed as if for a Vogue photo-shoot. Of course a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is de rigeur as are drinks at swanky hotels like The Carlyle. Henry James, Rothko and Kurosawa amongst many other famous names are dropped with a facility that suggests that Allen has forgotten how often he has relied on this citational ruse to mask his film's superficiality (Gatsby Welles! Really?).

And that is the real problem with this essentially solipsistic film. We’ve seen it all before but the charms that once amused have grown old and tired.




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