Whatever you think of Woody Allen, it’s hard to ignore the baggage. A Rainy Day In New York was finished back in 2018, but Amazon decided to ditch it in the wake of the #MeToo Movement – making it the first year since 1981 that Allen hadn’t released a new movie. Ugly lawsuits followed, as did very public decisions by the film’s stars Timothée Chalamet, Selena Gomez and Rebecca Hall to donate their salaries to the international movement against sexual harassment Time’s Up.
Other deals fell through, plans for an autobiography were mired in more controversy, and Allen now stands close to being cancelled altogether – but his most recent film is now quietly coming out online in the UK. If A Rainy Day In New York does end up being Allen’s final film, it’ll be a pretty damp end to the career of one of Hollywood’s once most celebrated auteurs – and not just because the film’s set during a thunderstorm.
Chalamet is Gatsby Welles (presumably because “Orson Fitzgerald” sounded too ridiculous?), a romantic wanderer, thinker-out-loud and rich intellectual from another age – the classic Allen hero. Gatsby is bumming around a liberal arts college with his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) when she gets a commission to interview a famous movie director (Liev Schreiber) for the school paper. The pair head into New York for her appointment, she gets mixed up with the director, he gets mixed up with an old friend (Gomez), and everyone starts tangling their love lives as the rain sets in.
There’s more to it than that, but most of the other plots are so clumsily drawn that they seem like they started out as ideas for other movies that never happened. Secrets are spilled about characters we never get the chance to care about; a high-class prostitute is hired as a stand-in girlfriend; Jude Law turns up to spar with Rebecca Hall; Fanning has an affair with a famous Mexican film star (Diego Luna) – and nothing ties together until a big swoony finale that feels like it was never earned.
Throw in Allen’s favourite creepy theme of a young girl fawning over an older man – this time a famous film genius who’s fallen out of favour (“You’re by far the most interesting American director… you really speak to my soul”) and you have a film that’s pretty hard to recommend.
That said, fans of Woody Allen movies know exactly what they’re getting into. A Rainy Day In New York is a long way from the likes of Annie Hall, Hannah And Her Sisters or even more recent gems like Midnight In Paris and Blue Jasmine, but there are hints of the same old-fashioned charm to be found here. Allen has never been less relevant, but that’s okay if you’re comfortable spending time in his vaudeville arthouse worlds – a mix of stage, screen, literature and old-time jazz that few can ever hope to imitate.
What’s more, Chalamet is fantastic. It’s a huge shame that this was the Woody Allen film he got put in (and, given his public apology for taking part, it’ll definitely be his last), as it’s hard to imagine anyone else from the same generation pulling off Allen’s dialogue with such a perfect mix of sophisticated awkwardness. The film looks great, too, with legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor) flushing the frame with golden light and silver rain – making Allen’s imaginary New York look better than ever.
If you’re a fan of Woody there are a few reasons to give this a go. But if you’re not, there are probably already enough other reasons why you won’t want to bother.
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez
Released: June 5 (VOD)