Friday, 22 May 2015

Movie Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (2010)


A routine Woody Allen slice-of-life comedy, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger offers typical vignettes on love, loss and transition, but little that is genuinely fresh.

In London, elderly couple Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) have divorced after a long marriage. Helena is crushed, and turns to fortune teller Cristal (Pauline Collins) for advice. The easily impressed Helena is soon obsessed by Cristal, believing everything the fake clairvoyant tells her. Alfie, going through a full-fledged late-onset middle-age crisis and desperate to have a son, hooks up with voluptuous and trashy escort girl Charmain (Lucy Punch).

Sally (Naomi Watts) is Alfie and Helena's daughter, and she is stuck in a stagnant marriage with writer Roy (Josh Brolin), who has one bestseller and a string of subsequent failures to his name. Sally is eager to start a family but she and Roy are struggling financially and dependent on Helena's charity to survive. Roy's wandering eye soon turns to sexy neighbour Dia (Freida Pinto), an aspiring musician who is engaged to be married. Sally also finds herself growing increasingly attracted to her boss, suave art gallery owner Greg (Antonio Banderas).

Although the London setting provides a relatively original context for a Woody Allen movie, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger rarely ventures into any other new territory. Allen himself has frequently explored the themes of relationships in trouble, disintegrating marriages, winter-spring romances, and crushes among adults. The one new idea here may be Helena easily falling under the spell of Cristal and treating all her predictions as certainties, Allen probing the tendency of the elderly to more easily want to place unfounded faith in the improbable.

The film is delivered with some annoying and utterly unnecessary narration, but otherwise the style is comfortably familiar. The stories meld, the characters are connected, the behaviour is for the most part restrained and courteous. The agitations and annoyances that creep into mature relationships happily pump through the veins of all the couples, just beneath the surface and often unspoken until the rupture happens and its too late to repair the damage. Despite the various story lines and seven principal characters, the film wraps up in an efficient 100 minutes.

Allen and his cast create characters that are intriguing because of their utter normalcy. The performances are uniformly steady, with Gemma Jones and Naomi Watts the most prominent. Sideways drift driven by restlessness and causing unintended damage is the common thread, as is the desperate need for offspring as a destabilizing force. Sally and Roy initiate flirtations with Greg and Dia respectively, and both dalliances become serious fixations more due to the neglect of their marriage than any ill intent. Alfie still wants to father a son and runs away from the idea of growing old with Helena and into the arms of a gold digging slut, and it will take him some time to realize that he has turned a bad situation into something much worse.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is one possible outcome for adults at the crossroads of a distressed romance. Left unsaid is that the stranger may also carry a ton of trouble.






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