Woody Allen‘s A Rainy Day in New York opened in Poland last weekend. London-based freelancer Matt Thrift apparently travelled to Poland to see it (or just happened to be there). His awkwardly written review, posted on Little White Lies, is a struggle to get through, but the film, he says, is “a funny, amiable riff on The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.”
The film is “hardly top-tier Allen”, Thrift maintains, but it’s a shame that the “wonderful” performances by Elle Fanning, Timothy Chalamet and Selena Gomez “are unlikely to receive the wider attention they deserve.”
“Following Wonder Wheel’s nods to Eugene O’Neill” (not Tennessee Williams?), “Allen has returned to the American literary canon, this time [blending] The Great Gatsby with The Catcher in the Rye for a contemporary riff on the facades of money and power.
“Chalamet plays Gatsby Welles, student at upstate Yardley college and scion of ‘a farrago of WASP plutocrats’ whose autumn bash he’s desperate to avoid. His moniker makes for something of a red herring, even if F. Scott Fitzgerald’s narrative comes fully to bear on the film’s final act, with Gatsby more equatable with the ‘hostile rebellion’ of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield.
“His girlfriend Ashleigh (Fanning) is travelling to New York to interview filmmaker Roland Pollard (‘Up there with [Jean] Renoir and [Vittorio] De Sica…lots of emotional probing, never a decent toilet joke’) for the college paper, and Gatsby, ‘a wannabe Sky Masterson,’ has promised to show her the sights, flush with cash following a poker game.
“As Ashleigh arrives at an upmarket hotel to interview Liev Schrieber’s helmer, Gatsby bumps into Shannon (Gomez), the younger sister of an old flame, on a student film shoot. Gatsby is roped in to kiss Shannon on-camera just as the heavens open. Meanwhile Pollard, his writer (Jude Law) and star (Diego Luna) make passes at the naive 21-year-old Ashleigh,” who’s a bit of a “Daisy Buchanan proxy.”
“Fanning brings most of the funny,” says Thrift, adding that she “brings to mind Mira Sorvino’s Oscar-winning turn in Mighty Aphrodite, her ‘sexually conflicted’ hiccups and desperate-to-impress guilelessness stealing a series of comic set-pieces from her older cast members.
“Chalamet is equally impressive as he bites into the ends of Woody’s prose. Gatsby’s self-indulgent journey appropriates scenes from Salinger wholsesale, but he’s afforded a beautifully tender moment at the piano, gently crooning his way through ‘Everything Happens to Me’ — more Chet Baker than Frank Sinatra.
“Gomez’s twist on Phoebe from The Catcher in the Rye provides the film’s level-headed emotional center and its romantic payoff, while Cherry Jones’ as Chalamet’s mother-with-a-secret brings us squarely into Fitzgerald territory come the final, recriminatory scenes.
“There’s no dancing around Woody’s usual ‘what is it about older guys that’s so appealing to women?’ schtick, but there’s little arguing with the melancholy charge of his [rain-soaked] New York, especially when shot through car windscreens by Vittorio Storaro, who alternates the honeyed-glow of an embarrassed sun with the reflective silvers of a persistent, lyrical deluge.”