YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Dir. Woody Allen, 2010)
Another year, another Woody Allen movie. Another one set in London, but hey! No Scarlett Johansson – so that’s saying something.
This ensemble comedy with Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, and Josh Brolin as the principles reminds me of Juliette Lewis in Allen’s 1992 dramedy HUSBANDS AND WIVES telling her professor (played by Allen) her impressions of his long gestating novel:
“You make suffering so funny. All the lost souls running around.”
There’s plenty of lost souls, but suffering though isn’t so funny here – it’s not even that affecting.
To break it down – we start with Gemma Jones as the estranged wife of Hopkins visiting a fortune teller (Pauline Collins) for advice about how to move on. She’s despondent and in need of drink which could define every character on display.
Jones’ daughter, Watts, is in a frustrating marriage to Brolin who is struggling with writing a new novel. Brolin pines for a woman (Frieda Pinto from "Slumdog Millionaire") he sees through his flat’s adjacent window.
Watts, meanwhile pines for her new boss (Antonio Banderas) at the art gallery where she just got a new job as an assistant.
In one of the most clichéd premises of a mid life crises I’ve ever seen Hopkins introduces his new fiancée (Lucy Punch) to Watts and Brolin over dinner and the extremely unnecessary narrator (Zak Orth) tells us that he’s not telling the whole truth about her.
Punch is a ditzy call girl who Hopkins woos into matrimony with promises of minks and money you see and so, of course, it’s a doomed relationship.
Meanwhile Brolin, jealous of a friend’s manuscript, goes to the dark side after finding out that his friend is dead after an automobile accident. He steals the book and his publisher loves it, but the catch is that is that his friend isn’t dead – he’s in a coma and doctors say there’s a chance he could recover at any time.
Brolin courts Pinto causing her to call off her engagement while Watts finds out her boss is seeing somebody else on the side from his wife and Hopkins is cuck-holded by Punch who also runs up quite a tab on his dime.
Jones, with the help of Collins, seeks spiritual comfort as well as companionship, but might find both in the form of, no, not a tall dark stranger, a short fat one portrayed by Roger Ashton-Griffiths who owns an occult bookshop and pines for his deceased wife.
The same tired themes of spirituality verses common sense are trotted out – it’s a treatise on whatever works to get one through life – like say in Allen’s last film “Whatever Works” – and the emptiness that the characters try to overcome weighs down the film in a wretched way.
Still, Brolin’s dilemma is compelling stuff even if it doesn’t come to a satisfying resolution (or any resolution really).
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER is a close to middling film with one juicy story thread (Brolin’s literary nightmare) amid warmed over Woody Allen thematic material that he has done to death.
Somebody not so fluent with the Woodman’s work may get more out of it, but would such a person really be interested in seeing it?
Brolin’s scenerio made me think that’s there’s still enough there for Allen to keep making movies, but maybe not so often as a film a year like his current record.
That’s not gonna happen however. Allen has another project already in the works (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) so maybe I should be thankful at this late date that at least some shred of quality still remains.