You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

20 Oct

Title: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Year: 2010
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts
MPAA Rating: R, some language
Runtime: 98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is, certainly, minor Woody Allen, and considering the unbelievable cast he had for this one it could have been amazing, but still, frame-for-frame this is still undeniably Woody, and it is a very amusing film at times, and you can tell the guy is still relentlessly clever in his writing, but at times this is a film that simply wears you out. This is more like what Whatever Works was in terms of quality, and not so much like the masterful Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Match Point.

Woody does come back to London for this one, where he’s made Match Point, Scoop and Cassandra’s Dream in the past five years. And there we meet Helena, who has just been left by her husband, Alfie, for a much younger woman, played by Lucy Punch. Gemma Jones plays Helena, and plays her wonderfully it has to be said, and Helena, in an attempt to find some sort of comfort after her husband leaves, decides she wants to go see a medium to help her clarify the future, and said medium tells her she’ll soon meet a man.

We also have Sally and Roy, the characters of Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin. Sally is Helena’s daughter and Roy is her husband, who had one hit as a novelist and since then has been living off her money and blatantly blaming Sally for the writer’s block he can’t seem to shake off. And from them we get to meet Greg, Sally’s boss who’s played by Antonio Banders and with whom she shares looks that carry on for a bit too long. And we also have Dia, the woman who lives in the apartment overlooking Roy’s window, who’s played by Freida Pinto in her first post-Slumdog Millionaire role, and with whom, you guessed it, he shares rather long looks with.

Woody Allen is a master of handling this many characters successfully, but it doesn’t work as good as it has in the past in this one. Yes, the conversations between the characters are really clever and amusing, but that’s a given from Mr. Allen, and we wouldn’t expect anything less from him by now, this one just doesn’t offer anything new, it’s a movie in which characters look for happiness and love, and, while he messes with the lives of his characters as he usually does, the results are underwhelming, to be completely honest.

By underwhelming I don’t mean bad, not at all, I’ll end up giving this one a rather good grade, but I wanted more, I wanted something in the vein of Match Point, and to be frank I expected something like that because of the cast. But unfortunately Mr. Allen didn’t write them properly, sure, there are really cool and funny lines of dialogue, but the characters themselves aren’t as well written, they come of as shallow and terribly uninteresting, and those are two things no Woody Allen film can really afford to give up if it’s going to be as great as it could be.

I will say this though, Lucy Punch, who plays Charmaine, the younger woman Alfie falls for, would have most likely been a contender for a Best Supporting Actress nomination had the film fared better. Her performance is far and out the best in the film, and, while I doubt it’ll happen now, had the end result been better she would have, at least, been joining the ten other actresses who have gotten a nomination in that category after appearing in a Woody Allen film, though probably not joining Penélope Cruz, Mira Sorvino or, the two-time winner Dianne Wiest as the ones who have gone home winners. Those statistics go to show how well Woody writes his supporting female parts. And the same can be said from those characters in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Ms. Punch is rather amazing and so is, though to a lesser extent, Ms. Pinto.

Like many films by Mr. Allen, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is basically about people wanting something with all their might, and not being comfortable, at least not at first, with what they currently have. And that’s served Mr. Allen well enough in the past, when he’s had countless narrators tell us tales, using Shakespeare quotes to aid their telling, and many times it has worked impeccably, but it doesn’t here as much because we don’t really care that much for the characters, and without that emotional connection to them we won’t really care about their dreams and quests as much.

I liked You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, it may not sound like it because I had such tremendous expectations because of the cast, but I liked parts of it very much, and I liked Lucy Punch’s performance quite a lot, too, I just thought I would find myself liking so much more than that. But alas that wasn’t the case, and so I’ll wait for Mr. Allen’s next effort, which will be next year’s Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates and Michael Sheen, so yes, expectations are definitely running high on that one, too.

Grade: B

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One Response to “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”

  1. alexjuliusgriffith October 21, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    It is true about the supporting females, he’s been good at matching great parts with great actresses. I’m not sure if he’s gotten much else right recently: http://postprojection.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/some-words-on-…-dark-familiar/

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