Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2019. Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro. Produced by Erika Aronson, Letty Aronson. Production Design by Santo Loquasto. Costume Design by Marco Piemontese. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter. Online Film Critics Awards 2019.
Woody Allen returns to New York and to a lighter feeling in this awkward and uneven but often charming romantic comedy. Timothee Chalamet is excellent as a rebellious college student who is as allergic to his patrician privilege as he is happy to take advantage of its delights (Allen’s obsession with both ridiculing and revering upper-crust WASPs rears its head again). Chalamet treats his Yardley College girlfriend Elle Fanning (who is delightful) to a trip to the Big Apple when she is invited to interview a famous director (Liev Schreiber) for the school paper. While she is distracted by the amorous advances of Schreiber and his screenwriter (Jude Law, sorely miscast), Chalamet kills time around town and ends up running into an old girlfriend’s little sister (Selena Gomez) just as the rain begins to fall and hold its sway over the city for the rest of the day. He continues to try and reconnect with Fanning, whose charming naivete keeps pulling her deeper into connections with the film world she is so in love with, as Chalamet finds no end of distractions before being forced to attend the fancy party being thrown by his mother (Cherry Jones) that he was hoping to avoid. This one has individual parts that work very well isolated, Gomez is riveting and her scenes with Chalamet are the film’s finest, while other moments, like Jones’s intense monologue about her past, feel like a climax that Woody was trying to fit in from another script. Elements of The White Sheik and Nights of Cabiria are welcome but familiar, reminding us that like most of the famous nebbish’s more recent projects, this one is a breezy reworking of elements we’ve seen before. The romantic images of the Big Apple feel like an attempt at doing for the city what he did for Paris, but the enchantment of that film isn’t as prevalent here and he’s already made plenty of lovely valentines to his beloved metropolis; that said, it’s very easy to watch and his fans will enjoy themselves.