A film by Woody Allen, 2016
A Rainy Day in New York
A film by Woody Allen, 2019
These two movies and the rest of his recent work has been denied U.S. distribution because of child molestation allegations by Mia Farrow, her daughter Dylan and their son Ronan. No court will address these charges therefore I won’t comment on them either, they have effectively established Woody Allen as a persona non grata and exiled his releases to overseas markets and streaming.
All that aside, these cinematic misfires stand on their own, although Allen’s duds are better (or at least more interesting) than most of the other dreck that passes for entertainment today. It is often said that a successful author only writes one book in their lifetime–the rest are re-writes. In defense of Woody he has explored numerous tropes in his career: New York City, sexual mores, neurotic behavior, and a nostalgic yearning for the past. These two films contain all of these; both use New York City as a central character, express nostalgia for the 1930s, and have older men ineptly romancing beautiful young women.
concerns Bobby (Jessie Eisenberg) a Bronx native, who moves to Hollywood in the late 1930s and falls in love with Vonnie, a young woman (Kristen Stewart) who is seeing Phil (Steve Carell), Bobby’s uncle, who is a Hollywood agent and also a married man. A romantic triangle grows out of this situation, although there are no real sparks seen on screen. Vonnie is something of a cold fish, and neither Bobby nor Phil are very appealing either. There was a time (the late 1930s?) when movies had stars in them: actors who were not only capable of delivering a convincing performance, but actually had a charisma that showed on the screen. The love scenes between Vonnie and the much older Phil are not only dead, they are squirm-inducing. Stewart’s Vonnie gives the impression that she is about to throw up at the thought of Carell’s Phil touching her:
Bobby moves back to New York and becomes successful running a nightclub with his hoodlum brother. There are some unappealing family dynamics at work and when Phil and Vonnie (now married) visit, things get complicated and the story sort of peters out at the end.
A Rainy Day in New York
is sent in current times, but could just as well have been set in the 30s. A young college couple, Gatsby (Timothée Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) arrive in New York for a weekend where they endure bad weather and suffer a series of misadventures. Gatsby is mentally stuck in NYC’s 1930s Café Society (he is an accomplished pianist who frequents jazz clubs), while Ashleigh is a film/journalism grad student (with a thing for old movies) who has an appointment to interview a famous film director. While she is conducting her interview, Gatsby wanders off, finding an old friend who happens to be making a student film and needs an actor to play a love scene with Chan (Selena Gomez), a woman who turns out to be the younger sister of Gatsby’s ex. At the interview Ashleigh is hit on by the director then his screenwriter and, finally, a famous and sexy actor. Meanwhile Gatsby has “issues” with Chan, and a prostitute, and his mother. This is a better plot than Café Society
, but the dialog is stilted, often hilariously bad at times. All the men are creepy and Chan’s vocal fry is so thick it sounds as if she is a 70 year-old chain smoker. The redeeming grace is the performance of Elle Fanning. Her role of virgin/seductress is played to the hilt; while the camera is on her the film comes alive. She has been the best thing in a wide variety of off-beat movies
, this might be her last role as an ingenue:
Woody Allen is in his mid-80s, these scripts are so out of touch with modern reality it is as if they had been written by someone in their mid-120s! His last great film may have been Midnight in Paris
, which examined the false allure of nostalgia rather than wallowing in it the way he has in these two films. The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro
is first-rate, although he does go overboard on the color saturation at times—making these films seem even more like a cartoon than they already are, although they aren’t funny.