Movie Diary 10/25/2021

A Rainy Day in New York (Woody Allen, 2019). Unreleased in the U.S., as you may have heard. It takes place over a weekend, as an Ivy League smartass (Timothee Chalamet) squires his girlfriend (Elle Fanning) to Manhattan, where she comes into the orbit of a movie director (Liev Schrieber) and screenwriter (Jude Law). TC also has free time to get involved with an old acquaintance (Selena Gomez). Vittorio Storaro’s camera sometimes spins pleasantly around the characters (even if there’s a sense that he’s working too hard to jazz things up), and every now and then an actor will really hit a nice patch. In general, I had the same reaction I’ve had to most of Allen’s pictures of the last 25 years, which is that it would have been advisable if he’d done a rewrite, and rehearsed the actors, and developed an ear for the way that rim-shot one-liners have gone the way of the passenger pigeon. (He’s still writing stuff for the Sid Caesar show.) Having said that, the film does engender an agreeable hang-out quality, enhanced by the fantasy New York locations – like a movie made by a young person who’s read too much Salinger in a short period of time. One might also note that while Allen’s work has tended toward the baldly misanthropic lately, with a special cynicism about his female characters (Blue Jasmine comes to mind, and Wonder Wheel), this film seems empathetic to its women, including Fanning’s giddily straying cub reporter – and also Chalamet’s mother, impeccably played by Cherry Jones, who delivers a late revelation that would be hopelessly trite if it weren’t for the actor’s dedication to it. (The exception is a one-scene appearance by Rebecca Hall, who sounds a shrewish note for reasons I’m unclear about, except to have a nag around.) Does Allen believe in anything on screen, other than the pleasant re-creation of a night at the Carlyle? It’s hard to tell.

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