[Screen It]


(2020) (Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: A college student becomes increasingly anxious and dismayed when his planned day in Manhattan with his college girlfriend keeps getting delayed.

Gatsby Wells (TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET) and Ashleigh Enright (ELLE FANNING) are romantically involved students at Yardley College. When she gets the chance to interview famous movie director Roland Pollard (LIEV SCHREIBER) in Manhattan for the school paper, Gatsby decides they should make a fun weekend of it in the Big Apple.

With her interview turning into a private screening of Roland's latest film -- that he despises -- with the screenwriter, Ted Davidoff (JUE LAW), Gatsby has time to kill and ends up briefly appearing in a kissing scene with his former girlfriend's now grown-up younger sister, Chan (SELENA GOMEZ), in a low-budget film being shot by their mutual friend.

With Roland flying the coop and going off on a bender, Ashleigh and Ted go looking for him, only to discover that his wife, Connie (REBECCA HALL), is having an affair. He ends up sending her to the studio to search for Roland and it's there that she meets dashing young actor Francisco Vega (DIEGO LUNA), with both ending up smitten with each other.

With Ashleigh ending up MIA, Gatsby resorts to hiring an escort, Terry (KELLY ROHRBACH), to pretend to be Ashleigh at a party being thrown by his wealthy parents (CHERRY JONES and JONATHAN HOGAN). As the day wears on, it's unclear how all of the developments will affect Gatsby and Ashleigh's relationship.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Once past a certain age few if any people like getting older, not just from moving closer to that fateful meeting with the Grim Reaper, but also the aches, pains, and inconveniences of no longer remotely being in the spring chicken category.

Mere mortals can't do much about that, but creative types can project themselves vicariously through the storytelling characters they create. For most -- and as the disclaimer always goes at the end of movies -- those creations are fictional and any similarities to anyone living or dead are unintentional.

But for someone like Woody Allen, he seems to thrive on recreating the young, intellectual, insecure characters he played long ago in his acting career. With such types now incredibly far removed from his range -- what with him being 84-years-old -- he keeps writing new versions of that same sort of persona.

I suppose that's fine and dandy if that's your thing, but the fairly grating and distracting extension of that is when he has those inhabiting such characters play them as if they're him from long ago, mimicking the stammer, inflections, and so on.

The latest example of that occurs in "A Rainy Day in New York," a romantic comedy where Timothée Chalamet plays Gatsby, a college student from a well-to-do Manhattan family who's quite bright and well-educated but would rather be playing high-stakes poker or taking his girlfriend, Ashleigh (Elle Fanning, seemingly channeling Diane Keaton or an approximation of characters she likewise played long, long ago), into the big city.

She needs to go there so that she can do a one-hour interview with famous director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) for her school newspaper. Drawn to her in a sort of icky way that's similarly put Allen in the public doghouse of recent, Roland confides in her that he hates his new $70 million film, but invites her to watch it with him and his screenwriter, Ted Davidoff (Jude Law).

That eventually leads to the auteur going on a self-loathing bender and young Ashleigh and Ted trying to find him but instead discovering that his wife (Rebecca Hall) is having an affair with his best friend. All of which results in a roundabout way of her meeting hunky international movie star Francisco Vega (Diego Luna) and the two nearly falling into bed.

Meanwhile, the repeatedly temporally pushed back Gatsby ends up running into his former flame's now grown-up younger sister, Chan (Selena Gomez), in the standard cutesy bickering manner that you know they'll end up together at the end. But before that happens, and with his girlfriend now MIA, he hires a hooker (Kelly Rohrbach) to pretend to be her at a big high society party thrown by his mom (Cherry Jones), something he initially informed his older brother (Will Rogers) he was hoping to skip.

Yes, that's a lot of characters and storylines for a 90-some minute film and while Allen never gets all of that under control from a directing or storytelling perspective, he imbues most of that with his usual high-brow dialogue. But coming out of Chalamet's mouth, it just feels like a desperate (and distracting) fountain of youth grab attempt, while the overall offering comes off like a retread of material and characters Allen's handled better in the past.

So, if you're somehow new to the Woody Allen filmography universe, you might enjoy this lightweight offering and its impressive cast collection. But if you remember the old days when the filmmaker's newest offering would be big, anticipated news in the movie world, this will only serve as a reminder of those good ol' days, and the fact that Allen can't stop appearing in movies, even if it's just through his latest character creation. Okay, but nothing more, "A Rainy Day in New York" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 6, 2020 / Posted October 9, 2020

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