A Rainy Day in New York is the latest comedy from Woody Allen. The writer-director hasn’t had the best run of form lately with a series of so-so films including Wonder Wheel, Irrational Man, Cafe Society and Magic in the Moonlight, which while star-studded haven’t really caught our collective imagination quite like his earlier work. Still using the same font and opening credit style that he has used with all his films, leaning into the quintessential Woody Allen dialogue and operating in the same territory, A Rainy Day in New York is one of his better attempts at reclaiming his former glory since Blue Jasmine.
Allen has worked with many great actors, despite his uneasy reputation in Hollywood. He is an influential icon and has created his own comic universe, allowing his unique voice to take root in many comedy dramas often enjoyed with a dash of romance. This is the case with A Rainy Day in New York, which pivots on young love as a couple are forced apart on one not-so-fine day. Each going in opposite directions with the intention of eventually meeting up, they encounter a number of possible romantic interests, in so doing discovering that their romance may be on the rocks.
Allen is no stranger when it comes to identifying strong new talent. Being attached to one of his films certainly offers more credibility, despite the terms and conditions. Jumping at the chance to appear in a Woody Allen film are Timothee Chalamet and Elle Fanning, two popular actors in the next generation of Hollywood talent. Chalamet rose to fame with an Oscar nomination for the wistful summer romance drama, Call Me By Your Name, and recently starred in The King, echoing his new position as Prince of Tinseltown. Adding his natural flair and boyish good looks to A Rainy Day in New York, he does well with a Woody-type role. Fanning is easy-to-recognise, whose curious beauty and breezy vibrations make her at home in just about any genre.
“Rainy day… New York… huh.”
Serving as divergent co-leads, we’re whisked away on a moody and romantic tour of New York with many wonderful backdrops and scenes. They’re supported by the likes of Liev Schreiber, Jude Law, Diego Luna and Selena Gomez, who check in with sturdy character bits. While Woody Allen is known for his fast-talking, self-deprecating, witty and offbeat comedy, he tends to inject himself into all of his films much more than your average screenwriter. Channelling Woody-speak, the writing is typically biting, observational and often insightful. Serving as a commentary on society and relying on “no-go” dinner table topics religion, politics and sex, he pokes fun, toying with social norms through barbed witticisms and situations. New York quaint, character-driven, daydreaming about romance and pontificating on futilities, A Rainy Day in New York isn’t all that different from his other films.
Unfortunately, the comedy does come with a hard slant of insincerity making it quite difficult to care for the characters. Having many (almost all) of the characters bringing Allen’s thoughts to life, it’s as if there are multiple Woody Allen characters in this film. With very few comic foils, the funnyman’s humour is somewhat lost in a new sea of normalcy. While this would work ordinarily, his cast aren’t as naturally charming as you might expect. With a thin veil of likeability, achieved through the stars and undermined by the characters, it just falls a little flat.
It’s as if Allen took a few notes from Midnight in Paris, echoing the couple’s hotel point of departure, but splitting the protagonist’s journey in two for a wannabe sequel. Each going their own way, he’s mixed the magic of a rain-drenched New York with the allure of celebrity, trading the time travel component for the cleansing power of rain over the Big Apple. It’s a rather elegantly crafted entry, which has some of the earmarks of Midnight in Paris, yet much less in terms of charm, delight and whimsy. While sporting some of the who’s who in Hollywood right now, it’s easy to admire yet difficult to resonate.
The bottom line: Brusque