A Rainy Day in New York

There is no filmmaker of comic prose to compare with Woody Allen. It is really as simple as that. For many of us starting out it’s hard not to write like him, so dominating his elegant voice. I can say that no filmmaker today touches Allen’s comic flair, his inventive lunacy, his erudite narrative skills, and dazzlingly original dialogue. However, his latest film“A Rainy Day in New York” will likely never be released in America. This is because of Dylan Farrow, the face of #MeToo alleges Allen of having sexually molested her in the home of her adoptive mother, the actress Mia Farrow, Allen’s ex-wife. In response to the resurfacing of these allegations, Amazon Studios has backed out of its four-picture deal with the director. Most of the cast has responded to the allegations by donating their salaries to organizations such as RAINN, Time's Up and the LGBT Center of New York. With Amazon out and no other distributor looking to pick up the picture, a U.S. distribution looks bleak. Today I learned that the halt of this release has disrupted a fifty-year pattern of a new Woody Allen movie every subsequent year. These allegations and the world's retort beg the question, ‘can you separate art from the artist?' Timothee Chalamet, Ellie Fanning, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna, and Liev Schreiber star in “A Rainy Day in New York.”

Gatsby Welles (Timothee Chalamet) is the son of wealthy New York parents. He is a student at the fictitious Yardley College, a private liberal arts school in Upstate New York. Yardley holds no special meaning for Gatsby who only goes there to be with his girlfriend, Ashleigh Enright (Ellie Fanning). Ashleigh is a driven journalist and gets an opportunity to interview Director Rolland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) in SoHo. Gatsby decides to go with her. The pair plan a romantic weekend in the city (with a specific emphasis on avoiding his mother’s soiree). During the interview Rolland invites Ashleigh to see a screening of his new film, ruining her plans with Gatsby. Gatsby kills time by walking the streets of New York. He runs into his friend, an NYU student director, and agrees to help him as a stand-in (for an actor who didn't show up). The scene being filmed is a kiss scene and the kiss that Gatsby shares is, to his surprise, with the younger sister, Chan (Selena Gomez), of a previous girlfriend. Feeling guilty, he calls Ashleigh who is too busy helping screenwriter Ted Davidoff (Jude Law) chase after Rolland whose gone on missing on an infamous bender.

An Erroll Garner melody; puddles form on the concrete; a gaggle of umbrellas scurry across an intersection; murmuring voices pontificate over the clink of glasses; a carriage rides through a misty Central Park; the click of hoves on the pavement; a lit cigarette smokes indoors; a roaring traffics boom; the silence of a lonely room; A Rainy Day in New York. The characters in Allen’s latest flick buzz like a hive of bees and draw clear inspiration from previous protagonists of his. Such a character that comes to mind is Alvy Singer in “Annie Hall.” Alvy is a well-off intellectual, a comedian who is hung up and smothered by the What ifs of past relationships. Gatsby on his own is similar to Alvy. To begin, he is a successful gambler who wins over “20 big-ones,” so he is wealthy and in turn, he is a magnet for beautiful women. Gatsby is also is an imposing pseudo-intellectual who resents his mother due to her suffocating demands of him as a child. Both characters are artists who can’t get out of their own heads, this being much less likely if there’s a woman involved. The woman who is involved casually gives the film a breath of fresh air. Ellie Fanning and Allen graph a strong woman into the story in Ashleigh Enright, she is a role model. Her character is an intelligent, focused journalist and everything that happens to her is surreal and amazing. This luck is defined by Gatsby as “the cities agenda,” which he believes is keeping the two apart and it is. Ashleigh experiences a more lavish and sleek New York, while Gatsby has a romanticized Holden Caulfield experience.

You can imagine how snuffed I felt, grasping my lapels as I took note of the poor shot consistency. An example of this is a mise-en-scene during a dispute between Gatsby and his mother: Gatsby sets down a glass of whiskey and in the next shot, a close-up reaction shot, he's holding it! This is one of many fluffed lines in the mise-en-scene. The cinematography of “A Rainy Day In New York,” was similar to much of Allen’s previous work. Much of the shots were long tracking shots- Long tracking shots never fail to impress me, especially when an actor hits all their marks (they did). What stood out to me was Allen’s choice of lighting. He opts for a boisterous yellow-orange hue to light his characters and at times the lighting increases for no particular reason. The sound, much like the shot consistency and lighting, is subpar at best. The non-diegetic sounds such as the roar of the city traffic vary vastly from beginning to end, with the sounds of rain being the best. New York at times is much too loud which is then rambunctiously followed by scenes of impossible silence. The diegetic sound also varies in quality. It is it's best when Gatsby is on piano but most of the time the scenes feel too quiet ( the carriage ride through a misty central park seemed more like a carriage ride through a ghost town). The narrative pacing is good but the ending will leave you longing to know what happened to many of the side characters whose storylines are prematurely singed to a close.

There is no denying that Woody Allen is a legendary visual auteur. Whether or not the allegations that stand against Allen are true, it does not change the fact that he is a gifted writer whose voice has inspired generations (in some ways unintentional). “A Rainy Day in New York,” however, is the outlier in his oeuvre of excellency. The star-studded cast may help you overlook many of the mistakes in the editing and sound departments, but at the end of the day, those mistakes cost this film so much. It saddens me to say that I believe Allen’s best work has already been made some forty years ago in “Annie Hall.”

© 2023 by Giorgio Citarella II