There are two themes that permeate Woody Allen’s latest film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: the age-old idea that the grass is always greener on the other side and Shakespeare’s quote about a tale of “sound and fury signifying nothing.” While neither is new to the realm of Woody Allen and his body of work, the fleeting moments of quality in Stranger are overshadowed by the failure to venture into any new territory for the aged director.
Narrated by the disembodied voice of Zak Orth, the story focuses on two couples. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) alongside their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her husband Roy (Josh Brolin). Alfie and Helena get divorced and Alfie meets a prostitute named Charmaine (Lucy Punch) and begins a relationship with her. Helena begins seeing an obviously fake fortune teller (Pauline Collins) (she uses a deck of playing cards instead of tarot cards).
Sally and Roy aren’t happy either. Sally is beginning to develop feelings for her boss Greg (Antonio Banderas) and Roy, who is struggling to finish his second novel after a very successful first one, has started obsessing over Dia, the musicologist (Freida Pinto) that he sees through the window in the flat next door.
They all begin to focus on these new interests in their lives thinking that this will make life better from them, but in classic Allen fashion, they all soon realize that these new directions in their lives haven’t improved anything. Charmaine cheats on Alfie, Greg falls for a colleague of Sally’s and Roy’s life just fall apart completely. He decides he wants to marry Dia but her family doesn’t approve and he starts to have even bigger publishing problems beyond his new book not getting picked up.
Then, most frustrating of all, the film just kind of ends. It’s almost as if Allen was sitting there at his desk, writing the script, got through his first two acts and said “ I’ll just film this!” There is little to no conclusion for any of the characters stories which you might enjoy, or it will annoy the hell out of you.
The acting across the board is very good. Gemma Jones is wonderfully annoying as Helena. She drives all the characters in the film nuts, and while she’ll drive you nuts too, it’s very entertaining. Lucy Punch is hilarious, however after this film and Dinner With Schmucks I’m beginning to worry that she is becoming typecast, hopefully she’ll be able to break that. Hopkins, Watts and Brolin are all in top form and even Banderas and Pinto do a great job with what little they are given to work with.
Had this not been Allen’s 44th film, it might have been perceived as good. But since he has such a breadth of work, this just comes off as more of the same of what he’s done in the past. Stranger feels like the work of a director in his later years playing it safe and that’s exactly what this is. That’s not to say it’s a bad film, it’s just nothing special.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital Discrete Surround. Also available are a French language track and subtitles. The film looks and sounds like a Woody Allen film. The transfer is fine.
The film’s Theatrical Trailer and a commercial for the Soundtrack are included.
If you like Woody Allen films then You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger will entertain you. It will be a good way to kill an hour and a half. However, if you’ve never been a fan of his work, this most likely isn’t going to change your mind. And with nothing substantial in the way of special features I’d say this is a rental at best.
Sony Pictures Classics presents You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Written and Directed by Woody Allen. Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts, Lucy Punch, Freida Pinto and Antonio Banderas. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated R for some language. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: February 15, 2011.
Tags: Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Josh Brolin, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, woody allen