A Rainy Day In New York
Director: Woody Allen
Pause for a moment to chuckle briefly at the realisation that a new/ish Woody Allen film finally makes it to DVD via the production company, “defiant!” Too perfect right? The stubborn old warhorse remains uncancelled – at least until the final episode of Farrow/Allen doco which drops any day. And maybe the funniest thing about his new/ish comedy – built from the parts of about a dozen films he’s already made and remade since the 70s – is the idea that it was released on “defiant!”. And arguably Allen battles and baffles on, defiantly. He’s made a couple of movies since this – one got to screen briefly and now sits in holding, another is sure to see its distributors walk (again, any day now).
I watched Rainy Day late last year for the first time – and wanted to like it. Because I’ve liked a lot of Woody Allen films. I’ve also sat through some of them as if attending a boring family reunion or as the plus-one at a party where I didn’t want to be. Fandom does that. Early exposure to a creative genius. I’ve read every Allen book and most of the ones about him – I’ve seen all of his movies and many of them twice. There are a small handful that I absolutely hate, but I still checked them out – including paying to see some at the cinema. And there are a small handful that I think are perfect, poignant – and as such I dare not re-watch them now. They’re likely creepy as fuck. But also they created the templates for many modern rom-coms and there is of course some exquisitely taut drama in his canon. People love telling you they could never watch a Woody Allen film now. But the problem with that tends to be that they never ever watched them back then.
Still, I’m not sure there’s been a great film from Allen in nearly a decade – and the one that was a big success, the last big success (Midnight in Paris, exactly a decade ago) I really didn’t think was up to much.
Blue Jasmine though. That was a fucking film!
Anyway, since Jasmine the drama has been largely consigned to Allen’s personal life and the movies have been light and inconsequential and occasionally hugely fucking insulting. When he did try to do dark-drama again (2017’s Wonder Wheel) it was monotonous and misogynistic in equal measures. Somewhere in there was a good film and shades of Jasmine maybe. But it wasn’t worth the dig. What was more obvious than ever before was that Allen’s worldview, his frames of reference, were outmoded, archaic, bizarre. Sexist.
Rainy New York is a convoluted set of sequences where not much happens and though there’s a zinger line or two (“Time flies. Unfortunately, it flies coach”) and there are great performances from some of the cast (Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez) the players that are meant to carry it barely turn up. Liev Schreiber looks like he was sent some transcripts of Ronan Farrow’s articles just ahead of someone shouting to roll tape. And Timothee Chalamet is basically charmless, almost grating. Yes, of course, in the time-honoured tradition of so many men that have been there before him (Leonardo DiCaprio, John Cusack, Alec Baldwin, Larry David, Edward Norton, Joaquin Phoenix and at least a half dozen more) he apes the Allen delivery style.
But a few Frank Sinatra weepies and a bit of Bing Crosby does not a movie make. And this, Allen’s 48th from behind the camera, starts to drag. The soundtrack is exquisite. But so fucking what.
Re-watching it felt punishing actually. And I smirked at the line where Chalamet flips the script and ponders what young women see in older men. It’s not funny, but there’s that Woody Allen defiance. He never fronts up to answer his critics but he gets his pot shots as and where he can. I just imagined himself taking the rest of his usually busy, head-down writing day off after creating that. Smug jerk.
Rainy Day isn’t shit. And maybe Woody Allen has another good film or two in him. But it’s hard to care – and the scandal of his personal life has never interested me when watching his films. But it’s getting harder to turn a blind eye to it. To watch anything like Husbands & Wives again, much less Manhattan is to look on as he normalises the behaviour of a 40- and then 50-year year old man obsessed with 17 and 22 year olds. And yeah, sure, he gives himself another name. But he wasn’t giving those roles to stand-in actors, coaching them to ape his mannerisms now was he. He took those roles because he had a career based on exposing his own neuroses, his foibles, quips, quirks and – yes – creepy infatuations. It’s always been there hiding in plain sight in the stand-up routines, the professional jokes written for others and the early, funny movies. Those roles were made for him and by him. They wrote themselves. Much like A Rainy Day In New York was probably created by AI looping bon mots from a dozen middling Woody Allen films made anywhere between 1983 and 2002.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron