I’m no Woody Allen fan. Counting this movie right here, I’ve only ever seen four of his movies (Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, Irrational Man, and now A Rainy Day in New York). Out of those four, I think Annie Hall is great, Midnight in Paris is genuinely inspiring to me, and Irrational Man is a swing and a miss. The ever-present allegations against Allen have also made me hesitant to dive into a lot of his other stuff, much like how I’ve stayed away from starting House of Cards because He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is the star.
But the love story, rom-com premise and the cast of A Rainy Day in New York piqued my interest enough that I decided to give it a shot. And boy, I wish I hadn’t. I could tell there was something wrong from the very first scene in which Gatsby (Timothée Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) decide to take a weekend trip from their small college in upstate New York down to New York City. The dialogue feels like it belongs in Annie Hall from 1977 and it doesn’t match the modern-looking aesthetic at all.
The dialogue may have been what tipped me off that the movie would be a mess, but the story as a whole feels like Allen telling on himself. Gatsby and Ashleigh take their trip to the city because Ashleigh has an interview lined up with a movie director named Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber). Almost as soon as Ashleigh introduces herself to Roland, he begins commenting on her beauty. This is a man in his forties talking to a 21-year-old like this, which isn’t inherently bad, but it’s icky and uncomfortable knowing that Allen is the sole writer and director of the film. And to make things worse, she encounters two more men in their forties (Jude Law and Diego Luna), both of whom endlessly comment on her appearance.
Ashleigh’s relationships with these three men is supposed to represent artists’ egos being fed by those who praise their work. None of them begin making comments on Ashleigh’s looks or asking if she has a boyfriend until after she tells them how great they are. I get what Allen was going for regarding the relationship of an artist to the person consuming the art, but I just wish he had found a different way to make his point.
The film’s other main theme is… *checks notes* yeah, it’s about giving rich people the benefit of the doubt because some of them used to not be rich. Thanks, I hate it!
If this was presented with any shred of nuance, I would have been more open to the idea, but the crux of the movie is that Gatsby (oh yeah, his name is Gatsby. I wonder what that could mean?) complains that he’s too privileged and he just has to do all the high society rich people stuff that his parents want him to do. For anyone outside Hollywood, I’m not sure that this message really will land the way Allen wants it to. It tries to make the classic argument that rich people have problems in life just like the rest of us, but instead of creating empathy, it just turns me off to all of the characters. Especially Gatsby.
I always try to recognize the most basic idea in a movie in order to find a way to feel empathy for the characters I don’t otherwise relate to. For example, in Little Women, I identify with going outside societal norms and not being put in a box, but obviously not with a young woman trying to combat blatant and constant sexism. But Allen completely loses me here and there’s nothing for me to grab onto.
I just find myself wishing these actors were in something different. In Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird, Beautiful Boy, Little Women, and even a few more, Chalamet is always playing some sort of moody or tortured character. There were some parts of this movie that just made me want to see him in a straightforward romantic comedy because I think he’d be perfect for that role. The same goes for Fanning and Selena Gomez who are better than what they’re given to do in this movie. Some of Gomez’s “comedic” lines were so bad that I was waiting for a laugh track to play after she delivered them, and I’m not exaggerating. The movie features over half a dozen actors who I’d get excited to see in any other film, but they’re all brought down by the script.
The one thing that the movie has going for it is the way it’s able to build atmosphere. I never felt like I wanted to go to Paris until I watched Midnight in Paris and Allen does something similar here. Even though I’ve been to New York City many times, I haven’t had the desire to return there in a while until watching this, so I do give Allen the slightest bit of credit.
But other than that, unless you want to watch a movie with terrible dialogue, a mess of a plot, awkward editing, unrelatable characters, and a high level of creepiness and cringe throughout, you should stay far, far away from A Rainy Day in New York.