Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is Not an Exciting Encounter

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – R for some language
PRODUCERS: Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, and Stephen Tenenbaum
EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter


Starring: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Pauline Collins, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Ewen Bremner, and Zak Orth (narrator)

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is the fourth London-set film from famed director Woody Allen. The film follows a pair of married couples in some state of marital dissolution.

After her husband, Alfie Shepridge (Anthony Hopkins), divorces her, Helena Shepridge (Gemma Jones) consults Cristal (Pauline Collins), a psychic, to learn what fate has in store for her. Alfie, in the midst of an old man’s version of a midlife crisis, is engaged to a prostitute named Charmaine Foxx (Lucy Punch). Helena and Alfie’s daughter, Sally Channing (Naomi Watts), and her husband, Roy Channing (Josh Brolin), are having their own marital problems. Sally is smitten with Greg Clemente (Antonio Banderas), the owner of the art gallery where she works. Roy, a struggling writer, falls in love with Dia (Freida Pinto), a grad student who is already engaged to be married. Meanwhile, Helena waits for the tall, dark stranger Cristal predicted would come into her life.

When one considers the films Woody Allen made in the 1970s, 80s, and even into the 90s, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, like most of Allen’s films from the last decade, does not measure up. Parts of this film are dull and uninspired, but some of it is also shocking and sincere in its depiction of how a person’s dissatisfaction with his or her life can manifest itself.

I think credit should go to the cast who seem to not only make the best of this middling material, but in some cases, make it better. Gemma Jones and Anthony Hopkins are the best examples of that in this film. I’m not familiar with Jones, but I am with Hopkins. As much as I always expect him to be good, Hopkins surprises me with his fantastic turn as the vain, confused, and ultimately tragic Alfie. Hopkins brings complexity to a character that needs complexity.

The themes of this film seem to be vanity and discontent, and the characters yearn for material things while ignoring how bankrupt they are spiritually. However, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger doesn’t seem to yearn for anything, being largely philosophically and spiritually empty. This movie doesn’t even have an ending so much as the story just seems to fade away.

I have to be honest. If anyone else other than Woody Allen pulled what he does with this movie, I would be intolerant. So if you are a fan of Allen or of at least one of the cast members, you may want to meet this movie. Otherwise, you will not want to meet You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

5 of 10

Saturday, February 19, 2011

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