Film Review: A Rainy Day in New York

STUDIO: MPI Media Group | DIRECTOR: Woody Allen | CAST: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Liev Schreiber, Cherry Jones
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 9, 2020
SPECS: PG-13 | 92 min. | Comedy romance

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13) 1/2

Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York, the writer/director’s 48th feature film in just about as many years (by my count) and one that, insanely enough, was almost “cancelled” and nearly remaining unreleased in his home country. Thankfully, cooler and more intelligent heads prevailed and thanks to Chicago-based distributor MPI, the 2019 production sees the flicker of the big screen this week. Woody’s previous film, Wonder Wheel, came out in December, 2017, and the late release of Rainy Day marks the longest lag time in between Woody releases in more than 50 years.

The story begins with two college sweethearts from an upstate Bard-like liberal arts school, Manhattan-born Gatsby (Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name) and Arizona beauty queen Ashleigh (Elle Fanning, 20th Century Women), who set out for a romantic weekend in the city, prompted by Ashleigh scoring an interview with a hot filmmaker (Liev Schreiber, Spotlight) for the school newspaper. After making it to New York City, they two each go their own way—Ashleigh to a Soho hotel to meet with the director, Gatsby to see his brother and play some cards. Twenty minutes in, the rain begins to fall and a mildly madcap if unexceptional adventure begins and proceeds in fits and starts, just like the precipitative weather.

Woody’s first film to be set primarily in Manhattan since 2009‘s Whatever Works following a decade of bouncing around such cities as San Francisco, Rome, Nice, London and, most successfully, Paris. Woody appears to still be most comfortable and, dare I say, romantic in the city he calls home.

A pure comedy-romance that hearkens back to the magical New York City of Everyone Says I Love You and Hannah and her Sisters, A Rainy Day in New York ain’t those two—not by a longshot—but it’s the right movie at the right time for the both the filmmaker and his fans. Woody’s fanciful New York City is filled with beautiful hotel suites, luxurious townhouses, gorgeously appointed sitting rooms, jazz-filled lounges and high-end restaurants, along with the kind of privileged characters that rattle off references about Ortega y Gasset, Grace Kelly, Renoir, Jimmy Cannon, Tom Adair, De Sica, Rothko and Virginia Woolf in passing—and that’s just in the first half-hour. Looking at Gotham today following seven months of COVID infestation, it’s hard to believe that Woody’s New York—the one he filmed not even three years ago—has, for now, disappeared, as have its denizens. And even though it’s a New York experienced by very few moviegoers, seeing it in A Rainy Day gives it an almost nostalgic appeal, particularly when it’s so lovingly shot by ace DP Vittorio Storaro. There’s actually one brief scene in the Metropolitan Museum’s John Sargent gallery that’s as spectacular-looking as anything Storaro’s ever done.

The performances are all fine, with Chalamet acquitting himself quite well as the Woody surrogate, just like John Cusack (Bullets Over Broadway), Jesse Eisenberg (Cafe Society), Jason Biggs (Anything Else) and a bunch of others have before him. Fanning isn’t nearly as deft as the Tucson shiksa fending off the non-threatening advances of such New York types as Schreiber’s vain filmmaker, Jude Law’s (The Nest) uptight screenwriter and Diego Luna’s (Walking Vengeance) cocksure movie star, but she’s cute enough. More appealing is Chalamet’s possible romantic entanglement Selena Gomez (The Dead Don’t Die), who knows her way around a good Woody one-liner (“A farrago of WASP plutocrats? Sounds like something on the menu at a fusion restaurant.”) and Cherry Jones as his well-off mother with a past she’s eager to talk about.

A Rainy Day in New York isn’t great Woody, and it’s not overly imaginative, but it’s fine welcome home for one of greatest filmmakers to ever emerge from New York City and continue to embrace it on film. The final scene finds a pair of lovers sweetly kissing in front of the beloved Delacorte Musical Clock outside the Central Park Zoo as the rain picks up again. For right now, that’ll do just fine.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.