Woody Allen’s latest film is about a giddy and guileless young student named Ashleigh, initially engagingly portrayed by Elle Fanning, who encounters a famous director in New York (Liev Schreiber). This triggers a series of meet-cutes both for her and her spurned boyfriend, the irritatingly monikered Gatsby, played by the skin-and-bone, perma-pouting Timothee Chalamet. Somewhere amongst the uneasy combination of millennial performers and Allen’s dated obsessions, a strange dissonance is created within the viewer. What makes the premise even harder to tolerate is that all the characters live in Jeffrey Epstein-style luxury throughout Manhattan.
Allen’s idea of what an ‘Allen type’ might be like in the 21st century is an unlikely mix of Alvy Singer and Harry Block, but Chalamet’s umpteenth rendition of an actor channelling Allen ranks somewhere between Jason Biggs and Will Ferrell. When supposedly in deep emotional turmoil over his failing relationship, he looks as though he is waiting for a bus; when playing high-stakes poker, the same blank stare is supposed to replicate a winning poker face. His mother’s backstory reveal could have been interesting, if not plonked at the climax of this tepid and inconsequential film.
The script fares no better; Selena Gomez, a savvy twenty-something Manhattanite called Chan describes her sister thusly: ‘She didn’t even know that Lincoln had died’. This is a gag which clunks so loudly it sounds like the door finally closing on Allen’s career. Chalamet’s insistence of pronouncing her name as ‘Chayne’ to such an extent that you would think she was called Shane is yet another irritatingly inauthentic quirk. Another friend of Gatbsy references Gone With The Wind in a witty rejoinder that would have been dated in Annie Hall.
Gatsby is also supposed to be a gambling aficionado and spouts the sort of passionate entreaties about the track and blackjack that would be more at home in the gob of Oscar Madison. He likes to joke about cancer and how his relentless smoking habit is going to kill him, but he takes two puffs throughout the entire running time with all the conviction of a lifelong non-smoker. All of the art and culture dialogue uttered by Chalamet and Gomez is inauthentic, in that whilst these characters would not necessarily avoid those subjects, they would not talk about them in the manner they do.
This may be the problem with Allen’s continued career: not that the scripts have markedly dropped in quality, but that those character-actor types who have supported him for decades are no longer around to support his flights of fancy. When even your stars won’t support or wish to profit from their association with you, that truly is A Rainy Day In New York.