A Rainy Day in New York, 2019, 2 ¾ stars

Allen’s Rainy Day

Bad weather can’t keep New York down

Image copyright Gravier Productions / Perdido Productions / MPI Media Group

Exclusive to MeierMovies, March 11, 2021

A Rainy Day in New York, Woody Allen’s final film before the woke world decided to Hester Prynne him, is not the writer-director’s finest work. But the infectious if clunky comedy is worth watching regardless of what you think of Allen. Indeed, I have discovered, to my astonishment, that the personal behavior – or even the criminal reprehensibility – of a filmmaker does not necessarily cause a camera to lose focus, a continuity error to appear or a crisp cut to morph into a lazy fade. Just ask Roman Polanski, or Kevin Spacey, or Harvey Weinstein.

But maybe we should instead ask Fatty Arbuckle, who, in 1921, stood trial for the rape and accidental killing of actress Virginia Rappe. Arbuckle was innocent, and the jury even wrote him an apology letter. But the scandal irreparably damaged his career, and he died at age 46, never again a full man.

As Irving Howe said in Allen’s Zelig, “That was what the twenties were like. When you think about it, has America changed so much? I don’t think so.” We still crave the correct side of public opinion – free speech and facts be damned. Never mind Allen’s astonishing cultural contributions over the last 50 years. And never mind that Allen might actually be innocent of the 29-year-old claim of child abuse for which he has never been formally charged. If he is innocent, we owe him an apology of the highest magnitude, and it should come soon. If he’s guilty, he deserves all he’s getting now, and more. But even if he is guilty, he will likely never be legally condemned, because of lack of evidence. And while I fully understand not wishing to financially support a filmmaker whom you believe has committed crimes, let’s remember that most sacred of legal precepts: “innocent until proven guilty.” Above all else — and regardless of what you think Allen did or did not do — it’s clear that Dylan Farrow is a victim and we should keep her in our thoughts.

What gets lost in all this noise, tragically, are the films. The wonderful films. And though that adjective might not quite fit A Rainy Day in New York, the movie might just be Allen’s last bite of the Big Apple, a city shaped permanently, and for the better, by his teeth marks.

The romantic comedy, which borders on farce until flirting with drama near the end, stars Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning as a young couple on an overnight trip to Manhattan. He is eager to show her his old haunts and introduce her to the town’s cultural highlights, while she is anxious to interview a big-wig movie director for her college newspaper, which is their reason for visiting in the first place. But, predictably, one outlandish interruption after another scatters their plans to the winds, and rain.

The script is pure Allen, with Chalamet a reasonable stand-in for Woody, down to the neurotically and erudite, if outdated, musings about life, love and society. Some dialogue feels forced, and, admittedly, I haven’t heard a millennial speak like this since, well, ever. But even Allen, in a tongue-in-cheek moment, hints that Chalamet’s character, instead of embracing 1970s high-society conversation, might simply have Asperger’s. Yes, it’s all contrived, ridiculous and old-fashioned, but it’s also irresistible. It’s the New York that never was and always will be. It’s the New York in which I want to live. And, sadly, it’s the New York that will likely die with Allen.

If Chalamet falls short of a complete grasp of his character, Fanning makes up for it with an utterly charming turn. And the two are buoyed by fine supporting performances by Liev Schreiber, Selena Gomez, Jude Law and Diego Luna. One supporting performance you won’t see credited is that of Amazon Studios, the original distributor, which halted the release of the film after its completion in 2018, forcing Allen to look elsewhere for distribution. So instead I commend MPI Media Group for having the courage to release the movie in the United States.

Though I can’t wholeheartedly endorse Rainy Day, I can express my full-throated support for Allen the filmmaker. As for Allen the person, I’m not a psychologist, a moralist, a lawyer or a jury. I’m a film critic. And I love Allen’s. And I’m not ashamed to say so. If you feel the same, say it, and say it loudly. Don’t be muzzled by fear of the pseudo-liberal mob’s wrath, or by the sermons of those who preach wokeness but will end up perishing of intellectual somnambulism.

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