It’s practically impossible to watch a new Woody Allen film without a set of expectations or pre-existing ideas that’ll cloud your view. But while his filmography consists of hits and misses, comedies and dramas, this film purposely plays with the line between the dark clouds and the bright sunny day.
You’ve probably already guessed that A Rainy Day In New York takes place on a rainy day in New York. It looks at Gatsby Welles (portrayed by Timothëe Chalamet), and his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) – they’re happily in love and relatively unchallenged, and complement each other’s personalities and outlooks. But obviously things are going to change when they visit Manhattan and rainclouds cover the sky.
Typically Allen, the film is dialogue-heavy – and those words vary between intimidatingly referential, faux-intellectual philosophising and light, naive banter, typically spoken by Gatsby and Ashleigh respectively. They each go on a separate journey: Ashleigh interviews a famous film director, and Gatsby touches base with his past.
When regarded in the context of Woody Allen’s filmography, A Rainy Day in New York feels like a rearrangement of familiar tropes: A nervous male lead hiding his anxiety and social failures behind a facade of worldliness and culture, and his ditzy but pretty girlfriend whose relationship gets tested by temptations and potential partners who might be a better fit, philosophically speaking.
But to both fresh and tired audiences, A Rainy Day in New York has an undeniable warmth that doesn’t necessarily favour the optimistic point of view, but presents the intentionally-walking-in-the-rain Gatsby’s cynicism as an equally romantic and desirable as Ashleigh’s rose-tinted, starstruck outlook.
The performances (including child actor and pop-singer Selena Gomez, who’s seemingly ready to launch a more mature acting career) are stellar, though there are a couple of scenes where Elle Fanning’s natural sharpness seemed to contradict her naive, deer-in-the-headlights dialogue.
A Rainy Day in New York might not meet the potential expectation of comparing to Annie Hall or Midnight in Paris, but it’s a charming and warm movie that functions on a normal rom-com level, but adds an examination of cynical pessimism vs naive optimism, and a blending of the two extremes resulting in a surprisingly positive and romantic (albeit somewhat lamentable) embracing of the rainclouds.
A Rainy Day in New York is directed by Woody Allen and stars Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Liev Schreiber, Jude Law and Diego Luna. It’s in South African cinemas from 25 October 2019.