The Movie Waffler New to DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital - A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK | The Movie Waffler

New to DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital - A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK

A pair of college students spend a drizzly day in the Big Apple.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Woody Allen

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Liev Schreiber

A Rainy Day in New York poster

The prime contender for the 2020 movie protagonist whose face I'd most like to throw a football at is Gatsby Welles, the ludicrously monikered twerp played by Timothée Chalamet in Woody Allen's A Rainy Day in New York. A second rate Holden Caulfield wannabe, Gatsby spends the movie moping around and moaning about how everyone around him is a phoney with their priorities in the wrong place while he lives a charmed life at his parents' expense.

After winning $20,000 in a poker game, Gatsby leaves his upstate New York liberal arts college (90% liberalism, 10% art no doubt) to accompany his ditzy blonde stereotype girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) to New York City for a day of planned cultural activity. Somehow, Ashleigh has snagged an interview for her college paper with filmmaker Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), considered America's greatest working filmmaker. Arriving in the city, Gatsby and Ashleigh part ways, planning to meet for lunch, but a series of mishaps and coincidental encounters keeps them separated for the day as they each enjoy their own New York adventure.

A Rainy Day in New York review

A Rainy Day in New York is essentially a reworking of the 2004 Olsen Twins vehicle New York Minute. In that movie, Mary-Kate and Ashley play twins who have nothing in common, but over the course of an adventure filled day in New York they realise they have a lot more in common than they previously believed. Allen takes this premise and inverts it, with Gatsby's day in the big city cementing his suspicions that Ashleigh may not be the one for him. It's a lucky break for Ashleigh.

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Gatsby comes to this realisation when he has a chance encounter with Chan (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of his former high school sweetheart. Gomez is three years older than Chalamet, which makes it all the more odd when he keeps treating her like a child. Chan is as much of a snob as Gatsby, so if we're rooting for them to get together it's only to save two other innocents from having to endure their presence. Gatsby and Chan may be horrendous individuals, but at least Chalamet and Gomez are comfortable embodying their characters - every other actor in the movie feels miscast and directionless, save for Cherry Jones in a convincing cameo as Gatsby's mother.

A Rainy Day in New York review

Allen has long avoided making any political statements in his movies, which is part of the reason his best work still feels so timeless. A Rainy Day in New York however feels very much like a reaction to the Trump era. Fanning's Ashleigh, a transplant from Arizona, is constantly subjected to mean-spirited digs at what East Coast liberals like to call "flyover country," yet while she's irritatingly mannered, all nervous tics and hiccups, she's far easier to warm to than any of the Manhattan snobs we encounter. The first thing Allen has Ashleigh do is apologise for her family's Republican allegiance, and Vittorio Storaro's overblown lighting casts her face in an orange glow at all times, as if we didn't get what she was meant to represent. In the eyes of both Gatsby and the film, which ultimately comes down on the little shit's side, Ashleigh's greatest crime is in failing to recognise a Cole Porter lyric. This sums up the real issue many sheltered liberals have with Trump; it's not that he poses an existential threat to the world, but that he has no interest in culture - they'd rather have the Middle East reduced to rubble by someone who can put out an acceptable top 10 films list at the end of the year.

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Narratively speaking, A Rainy Day in New York is a mess, chiefly because it creates situations that rely on us having a level of character investment that the film simply hasn't earned. Two minutes after meeting Jude Law's screenwriter Ted Davidoff we're plunged into the middle of a blazing row between himself and his cheating wife (Rebecca Hall). Why should we care? We don't have any idea who these people are. Late on, Gatsby's mother dishes out a revelation concerning her past that again has no impact as her character was literally introduced to us two minutes prior.

A Rainy Day in New York review

What's most surprising about A Rainy Day in New York is how it portrays the titular city. Allen has done more than arguably any other artist to romanticise New York, but as presented here it could be any bland American city. Gatsby keeps telling both the audience and everyone he meets about how intoxicating the city is, but Allen never shows us any evidence to back up his claims, failing to capture the allure of NYC in the way his iconic Manhattan set movies once did so effortlessly. I guess A Rainy Day in New York sounds more appealing than A Drizzly Day in Dayton, but Allen's latest makes for a damp 90 minutes.

A Rainy Day in New York is on UK DVD, blu-ray and Digital from July 27th.

2020 movie reviews