Through powers beyond my control, or perhaps just an accidental subliminal choice, I have been blissfully ignorant of Woody Allen movies for over thirty years now. My only experience with the man was back in 1998, I sat in the cinema as a chubby eight year old, watching Antz and then complained that the animation had given me a headache. I only mention this as I have no reference to Allen’s body of work, so if I have missed some classic Woody Allen tropes then all I can do is apologise… but I won’t.
A Rainy Day in New York is pretty much just that. Two Yardley college students spending a weekend in Manhattan on the premise that it will be a romantic occasion, especially if it rains. Gatsby is originally from New York and comes from a wealthy family, whom he seems to resent. Ashleigh, Gatsby’s girlfriend, has landed an interview with film director Roland Pollard for her college paper, hence the reason for the visit into the city.
Upon arrival in Manhattan, things don’t really go as planned for the young couple, as Ashleigh becomes sucked into Pollard’s internal crisis of ability to make a film before fleeing the interview to find a watering hole. Compelled to help the man, she and Pollard’s screenwriter, Ted Davidoff, jaunt across the city in an attempt to find the great filmmaker. During their search, Davidoff discovers that his wife is having an affair with his best friend, so they abandon the search for Pollard and begin a stake-out to confront his unfaithful wife. As all these shenanigans are going on, Gatsby is having to cancel or reschedule reservations, wandering around the city and bumping into old acquaintances. One of which asks him to act in his student film, insisting that he doesn’t have to say anything, just sit in a car. In the car alongside him is Chan, the younger sister a girl Gatsby used to date and she drops the clanger that they must kiss in the scene. After a momentary moral conflict, Gatsby agrees to kiss her.
Both Gatsby and Ashleigh have individual adventures and misadventures. Ashleigh ends up being seduced by an A-List Hollywood actor and Gatsby hires a hooker to accompany him to his mother’s big wealthy party that he was desperately trying to avoid. Manhattan itself becomes a catalyst in the couples relationship and its ultimate demise. Acting as a silent character throughout, Gatsby completely falls back in love with the place and realises that it isn’t the setting for Ashleigh or their relationship to thrive.
There is a warm colour grade employed in early scenes that dictates the mood of Gatsby and how he views Ashleigh at that point in the story. As he becomes disheartened by her or finds his feelings flowing elsewhere, the glow cools to suit the emotion. An interesting technique used by Allen, giving more depth to the ever present Manhattan, however, the warm hue can be a little too conspicuous where it gives the illusion of sun, contradicting the constant rain in some instances.
Gatsby can be viewed as a spoiled little rich kid but in actual fact he has no idea what he wants to achieve from life. His trendsetting older brother has a successful career and is set to be married, whereas eccentric Gatsby exiled himself to a college upstate in an attempt at alternative fulfillment, escaping his over-pretentious mother and stepping out of his brother’s shadow. He is interested in the arts rather than academics and spends his time smoking, gambling and playing piano rather than sitting in lectures. Gatsby is a character that is easily related to, without the insanely rich parents at least. It’s a very American trait to have your life mapped out for you from an early stage, choosing a career and sticking with it until you retire and die. Gatsby is simply at a loss and doesn’t want to throw all his eggs in the one basket just yet. He and Ashleigh are polar opposites in this regard as she is going to be a journalist and that is that. That will be her career and it’s why she’s attending college. Neither approach to education is depicted as right or wrong, it’s all dependent on the individual and what suits them. The overarching theme in A Rainy Day in New York is self discovery. Both main characters experience events that are far from their norm and are subsequently changed as a result of them, emphasising that it is OK to not to hold all the answers.
As I mentioned up top, this is my first real interaction with a Woody Allen picture and it’s a fun, charming tale of youth discovering who they are at that particular point in time. Solid performances, intriguing dialogue and comedic moments that catch you off guard make this a worthy watch and might have persuaded me to pursue Allen’s back catalogue.
Dir: Woody Allen
Scr: Woody Allen
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Liev Schreibler, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna
Prd: Erika Aronson, Letty Aronson
DOP: Vittorio Storaro
Run time: 92 minutes
A Rainy Day in New York is on Home Premiere 5 June from Signature Entertainment