By Tilly Long, Second Year, English
Although the title card evoked the unmatchable excitement of being back in a cinema seat, A Rainy Day in New York (2020) is a pale imitation of Woody Allen’s classic romantic comedies.
A Rainy Day in New York was controversial from the get-go; the film’s production began during the emergence of the Me Too movement, reigniting outrage at its director, Woody Allen. He had previously faced sexual abuse allegations from his adopted daughter which have been consistently denied. This placed him at the forefront of Hollywood’s now-infamous circle of male suspects, including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. The film cannot exist in a vacuum, and actually reinforces the need for institutional change in the film industry.
As opposed to shying away from his past, Allen seems to utilise it throughout the film in order to poke fun at his reputation.
The threadbare plot follows the romantic exploits of a typical Allen antihero, Gatsby Welles, reminiscent of everyone’s privately educated ex-boyfriend.
This consists of Timothée Chalamet strolling around New York doing his best Woody Allen impression; his first unlikeable role to date. Having gained both critical acclaim and a cult following in 2017 for Call Me by Your Name (2017) and Lady Bird (2017), his involvement in this project was heavily criticised, prompting the announcement that he would be donating his entire salary to charity.
Aside from a generally cheesy script, the most curious part of this film lies in its depiction of female characters. The eponymous rainy day prompts Gatsby’s girlfriend to attempt to further her journalistic abilities by, essentially, stalking director Roman Pollard. His name is a clear allusion to Roman Polanski, who was found guilty of sexual intercourse with a minor in the 1970s, adding to the idea that Allen has used crude inside jokes to be deliberately provocative. Elle Fanning’s portrayal of the unrealistically naive Ashleigh is frequently annoying, but Allen’s script can be held primarily responsible for this.
The other women are reduced to classic clichés: Gatsby hires a prostitute to accompany him to a family party, and there’s an uncomfortable scene in which his mother confesses she met his father when she was a sex worker, implying that the women in the film achieve validation solely through their sexuality. Remarkably, Selena Gomez plays the film’s only likeable character, Chan, accompanying Gatsby on sporadic trips to the Met and then randomly re-appearing just before the end credits roll.
Last year's award season gave us fresh masterpieces from perennial directors Scorsese and Tarantino, using their long time collaborating actors De Niro and DiCaprio in order to write love letters to classic Hollywood.
Almost as though he intended to juxtapose this, Allen has crafted a parody of his previous work, which ultimately suffers due to its lack of charm. Whilst his characters are usually praised for their whimsical nature, such as Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977) and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris (2011), Chalamet is simply a caricature of Allen.
Perhaps this illustrates why this feature is one to miss; Allen’s films no longer seem to work outside the nostalgic 70’s lens with which they were created.
Featured: IMDb / Gravier Productions
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