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“A Rainy Day In New York” Sees Woody Allen Going Back To His Early Funny Ones

We have a really interesting situation with the latest Woody Allen film. Technically, A Rainy Day in New York has not been released in the United States, though oddly it’s available for domestic cinephiles who fly on American Airlines, since it’s one of their in flight options. However, the movie has been released elsewhere in the world, continuing Allen’s run of playing well in Europe. Having seen the flick, I’m in an interesting spot, since so many of my colleagues have. Obviously, the auteur has become a more controversial figure than ever before in his career, so it’s more complicated to separate the man from his work than ever before. If you do so, though, you have a fairly pleasant middle of the road effort from the filmmaker, especially if you tend to be keen on his work.

This movie sees the famous writer and director not only go back to New York City, but also focus on his youngest cast in ages. Here, the Allen stand in is Gatsby Welles (Timothée Chalamet), a wealthy college student uneasy with his good fortune. When he finds out his girlfriend Ashleigh Enright (Elle Fanning) has a big interview scheduled for the school paper in the city with famous filmmaker Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), Gatsby plans a whole New York day for them. Almost immediately, things don’t go according to plan, as Ashleigh becomes entangled with the filmmaker, then his screenwriter Ted Davidoff (Jude Law), then star actor Francisco Vega (Diego Luna), leading to a wild adventure through the city. While she constantly cancels their plans, Gatsby attempts to avoid his mother (Cherry Jones), ending up cameoing in a friend’s student film, one that puts him in a scene with Chan Tyrell (Selena Gomez), the sister of a former flame. Sparks fly for all involved, as Allen’s trademarks relationship changes ensue. Allen writes and directs, as always, with the cast also including Annaleigh Ashford, Rebecca Hall, Jonathan Hogan, Griffin Newman, Will Rogers, Suki Waterhouse, and more. Iconic cinematographer Vittorio Storaro provides the visuals.

Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning are unusual choices for Allen’s dialogue, though they each have some strong moments, both together and individually. Interestingly, Selena Gomez emerges as the MVP here in her supporting role, and it’s not even close. She just catches the rhythms of the script best, while also being the most interesting character overall. The adults don’t fare as well, minus a pivotal and touching third act scene with Cherry Jones, as they seem out of a staler film. Allen’s NYC visuals, a credit to Vittorio Storaro, are on point, though he’s again cribbing from his earlier, better, work (and not getting full use out of being in the Big Apple). Still, there’s some really solid one liners, leading to more chuckles than he’s been getting out of his flicks in a bit. In that sense, it does harken back to some of his earlier efforts.

A Rainy Day in New York is neither special enough to warrant another studio risking bad publicity to take on, nor is it disposable enough to remain essentially hidden from U.S. theatergoers. Such is the nature of the business with a hand grenade like Woody Allen right now. A lot will probably depend on what happens with his currently in post production next work Rifkin’s Festival. If a distributor steps up for that one, they may try and release this one too, as a two for one deal. Otherwise, it will remain an unusual footnote in his career, as well as the careers of Chalamet, Fanning, Gomez, and more, almost all of whom have expressed regret over being in the picture, once Allen’s prior allegations came back to the light of day.

Fans of Allen will want to keep an eye out to see what ultimately happens with A Rainy Day in New York. It may never see the light of day stateside, as it was obviously caught up in his acrimonious split from Amazon and Amazon Studios. Whatever ends up happening with it, it’s a movie that his fans will enjoy, his detractors will hate, and most others will ignore. In that sense, it’s exactly what you expect out of a modern Woody Allen film, for better or worse…

Be sure to check out A Rainy Day in New York if you’re outside the United States, or if you fly with American Airlines!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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