Monday, June 28, 2021

REVIEW: "A Rainy Day in New York"


Elle Fanning puffing pot in "A Rainy Day in New York"
With mixed feelings I watched the 2019 Woody Allen movie A Rainy Day in New York, which Amazon has now decided to run after being sued by Allen for failing to release it, turning over the distribution rights to him, and settling the case.  

Formerly, I'd never missed a Woody Allen movie, and used to joke that I knew more about his psyche than my own. Even as—it is now abundantly clear—there was something creepy about his character falling for a 17-year-old girl in Manhattan, the scene where he compares her face to Cezanne's pears speaks to a sensibility that few filmmakers can convey. 

Rainy Day has a moment like that when Timothée Chalamet as Gatsby Welles—a kind of Allenesque Holden Calfield named for the fictional New Yorker (and pot dealer?) The Great Gatsby—suffers a setback in romance and declares, "I need a drink. I need a cigarette. What I really need is a Berlin ballad." (Cue soundtrack, and the next joke—Waiter (incredulous): "You want a double?" Gatsby: "It's OK, I won't be operating any farm machinery.") 

Gatsby is romancing his fellow snooty-college student Ashleigh Enright (Elle Fanning), a Tucson beauty queen and film buff who scores an interview in Manhattan with a top director for their college paper.  Back with Ashleigh on his home turf, he encounters Chan (Selena Gomez), a tough New York gal who makes fun of his girlfriend saying, "I'd give you an Arizona lunch but we're all out of beef jerky." 

Meanwhile Ashleigh, dressed more like a junior high school girl than a college student in sweaters and short pleated skirts, is charming the pants (sometimes literally) off of the film director (Liev Schreiber), his screenwriter (Jude Law), and a heartthrob actor (Diego Luna). She guzzles wine and daintily (pinky up) puffs on a joint as she muses, "How can you say no?" about going to bed with actor so that she'll have a story to tell her grandchildren. In the next scene she takes off her schoolgirl clothes to reveal her scanty panties and bra, mimicking the nude in a restaurant mural shown behind her when she confesses, "Alcohol plays havoc on my cerebral neurons. I become loose, uninhibited, passionate, aggressive, wicked. Absurd!"

It's not the first time Allen has depicted a woman smoking pot on film. He first did it in "Annie Hall," where Diane Keaton plays a ditzy/sexy pot smoker who likes to puff before she makes love in the 1977 film that swept the Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing). Allen had Blake Lively saying, "Muggles made me feel sexy" in Café Society (2016), a film starring pot-lovers Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg (who also paired, and smoked, in Adventureland (2009) and American Ultra (2015)). Mia Farrow puffs an opium pipe and takes some magical herbs in Allen's Alice (1990), and Mia Sorvino makes love "like Aphrodite on an aphrodisiac" in Mighty Aphrodite (1995). 

Fanning delivers an ample and amusing performance, but her unsophisticated character isn't allowed to be a match for Chalamet's, as Chan (meaning: snow) is. After Ashleigh misattributes a Cole Porter lyric to Shakespeare, missing by several centuries, Gatsby jumps out of the Hansom cab they're New Yorkily riding in and splits to find Chan in the rain, under a clock chiming, "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie." 

Fanning's Christmas present from Kate Hudson.
The film opens with Very Important Pothead Bing Crosby crooning, "I Got Lucky in the Rain," and mentions the 1947 Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum movie Out of the Past. Greer, who was one of the only actresses who would work with Mitchum after his 1948 bust for marijuana, said that during the filming of The Big Steal in Mexico locals were constantly trying to foist joints on him. 

Joan Rivers said in 2012 that back in the day she smoked pot with Allen, Betty White, George Carlin and Bill Cosby. "We had fun." But Allen never smokes himself on film, nor do his stand-ins. Just his women, who get sexier when they smoke. 
Meanwhile, Page 6 reports that last Christmas Kate Hudson "sent bottles of her King St. Vodka to pals including Kris Jenner, Molly Sims and Elle Fanning — along with cans of tonic water that’s spiked with a microdose of cannabis. The cranberry and sage flavored 'social tonic' is made by Cann." I took some Cann cans to a party recently, and all the ladies liked it. And none of them took off their clothes. 

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