Move over, R-Patz: how Timothée Chalamet became the movie star of his generation

Steve Rose

Those seeking explanations as to how Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York topped the global box office a few weeks ago, despite two years of delays, disavowals and reputation-shredding allegations of sexual assault against the film-maker (Allen denies all charges), might want to take a look at the posters for A Rainy Day’s release in South Korea. They are essentially a Timothée Chalamet fashion shoot. Here he is looking dapper in a tweed blazer, holding an umbrella, sitting alone in a bar, closing the door of a yellow taxi – wisps of wet hair streaking artfully across his forehead. It’s not Allen’s name that is drawing people in, it’s Chalamet’s.

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It is now safe to say Chalamet is the movie star of his generation. He’s Generation Z’s answer to Leonardo DiCaprio, or Robert Pattinson, or James Dean. More than just talent, commercial appeal or dreamy good looks, he possesses that teen heartthrob quality born of boyishness: intensity, vulnerability, androgyny and a certain amount of stubble-free cheekbone action. Chalamet seems to appeal to all genders and sexualities, and today that appeal is measured less by posters on bedroom walls than adoring posts online. It is Chalamet who is inserted by fans into classic works of art on Instagram, who is the subject of memes, whose every style choice is met with gushing approval, and who can send the internet into a frenzy with a mere photo of his larder.

That said, Chalamet has little competition in the acting stakes, either. He is the only actor still under 30 with a best actor Oscar nomination, and after Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird and Little Women, he has established a neat line in louche, sophisticated teens, world-weary beyond their years, yet captivatingly sensitive. The question is whether Chalamet can graduate beyond dreamy teens and score a bona fide hit, like DiCaprio did with Titanic, or Pattinson with Twilight. His Henry V in last year’s The King was the perfect boy-to-man transitional role but Chalamet didn’t quite pull it off (the bowl haircut may have been a factor). But he still has the sci-fi epic Dune to come, not to mention Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, a Call Me By Your Name sequel and a rumoured Bob Dylan biopic.

In that respect, A Rainy Day in New York represents a step backwards. It was filmed three years ago, when Chalamet was still in dreamy teen mode. The story rehashes so many old Allen themes – age-inappropriate relationships, ditzy young women, anachronistic witticisms – it might as well have been written by an algorithm, but Chalamet emerges unscathed. He has since distanced himself from the film in light of Allen’s growing toxicity, and donated his salary to Time’s Up and other charities. Ironically, the film he is least proud of could be the one that cements his movie star status.

• A Rainy Day in New York is available in the UK on premium on demand services from 5 June