In 2011, the silver screen saw “Midnight in Paris” writer Gil fall in love with a dreary-eyed Paris while on a trip with his fiancé, Inez. As fate would have it, the two don’t spend much time together, leaving Gil to wander the city alone. Nine years later, switch out the 30-something-year-olds for college students, set it in a rainy city across the Atlantic and call it “A Rainy Day in New York.”
The 2019 movie released on-demand Nov. 10 after Amazon Studios dropped the film as a result of sexual abuse allegations against its director, Woody Allen. The result was a lack of any box office success in the U.S., prompting many of its actors to donate their paychecks from it to charities.
Maybe it’s best you don’t set aside your feelings for Allen, as it appears half the cast is riffing on Allen’s personality failures. Instead, should you choose to spend the $4-5 to rent this, let your love of Timothée Chalamet attempt to overshadow the god-awful dialogue, redundant plotline and subpar editing.
Pretentiousness is already running high minutes into the film’s runtime of an hour and 35 minutes. After recently winning 20 grand at a poker game, Yardley University student Gatsby Welles (Chalamet) — yes, you read the name right — plans an extravagant, spare-no-expense trip to New York City with his girlfriend Ashleigh Enright (Elle Fanning), a budding journalist.
The trip revolves around Ashleigh’s interview with famous director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) — the name has a keen similarity to director Roman Polanski, which doesn’t bode well considering the context of “Rainy Day” and Polanski’s infamous history — for her school’s newspaper. Gatsby planned dinner dates, romantic carriage rides and museum excursions around the interview, but what was intended to be an hour-long effort became a day-long one.
The opportunity thus presents itself for Gatsby to wander the rain-slicked streets of New York alone with his clear bubble umbrella, pondering the depths of life as introspectively as one can expect him to.
On his Owen Wilson à la “Midnight in Paris” walk, he runs into his old acquaintance Shannon (played by understated actress Selena Gomez) and the two strike up a strange rekindling of their teenage friendship, one that first came about when Gatsby dated Shannon’s older sister.
Wild, curly-haired Gatsby isn’t like the others. He’s a tweed blazer-wearing college student who smokes using cigarette holders and has a deep-rooted love of old books, movies and pianos. His antiquarian self pairs well with Ashleigh, as she’s not what one would call “average” either — she hails from a million-dollar family and has a passion for classic American and European film directors.
On their bus ride into the city, Gatsby tells Ashleigh, “I read, I just don’t read what they give us in school.” In any other movie, that kind of line has the potential to come off as charming, even funny. But as Chalamet says it with a strained, teeth-clenched smile, even his boyish charm isn’t enough to win anyone over.
“Rainy Day” is wasted potential. A romantic film basking in its jazz piano soundtrack while rain soaks a city and lovers find each other has an undeniable nostalgic charm to it. Had “Rainy Day” landed in different scandal-free hands, the nostalgia it’s trying so hard to portray could have outshined the forced smiles and failed attempts at banter.
The often-painful dialogue drags the movie through the mud as much as anything else. The actors do what they can, but even their best isn’t enough. That first time Gatsby reconnects with Shannon, for example — on the set of a friend’s college movie project — the conversation goes from the cacti of Arizona and asthma to bad kissing habits and therapy in a matter of about one minute.
To further put into perspective the botch-job that is this movie, that same scene included an editing spoof where Gomez’s character visibly continued speaking while the sound cut to Chalamet’s voice.
In an unsurprising outcome, parts of “Rainy Day” come off as awfully sexist. In her quest for the perfect “scoop,” Ashleigh prances from the ogling eyes of one Hollywood film executive to the next, writing it off as a chance to meet the film heroes of her dreams. She can barely get a question out before she’s interrupted by a male asking if she has a boyfriend.
The film’s description sells it as a “charming, comedic tale,” but the only thing comedic is how lacking the decades-old tropes are. The warm, artificial yellow glow cast over scenes won’t be enough to save a film floundering in its puddles.
“A Rainy Day in New York,” rated PG-13, is available to rent on Amazon and Vudu.