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With this movie Allen is back in England, but there is very little Britishness in this movie excepting the setting and the opening quote of Shakespeare. To the same extent the story could have happened in Manhattan, or some other corner of Allenland. The quote that I mentioned is about the meaning of life, and it leaves nothing to fate or to higher goals in our lives, but rather a lot to chance and to trying to find a support that makes us overcome hurdles, any support, be it a dream, or a cheap superstition, or even a cheat. The Tall Dark Stranger in the title can be a handsome male the women in the movie dream about, or maybe the dark end that expects each of us at the finish line.
Each of the characters in the film finds his own cheat or lie or fraud to rely upon. Helena Shepridge (wonderful British actress Gemma Jones) is abandoned by her husband Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and finds refuge and advice in a fake fortune-teller who tells her what she wants to hear. If her fortune-teller is a real person, the other characters can be said to have private virtual fortune-tellers of their own. Alfie marries a prostitute half his age in a vain attempt to win back his lost youth, just to find himself deceived as expected. Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) fantasizes about an affair with her rich boss gallery owner (Antonio Banderas). Her husband, Roy (Josh Brolin) unsuccessfully tries to sell his second novel, then fate and fraud combine to help him make an apparent jump ahead which allows him to dare cheat on his wife and date the neighbor in the near-by building which he observes in a Peeping Tom manner that allows Allen to quote Hitchcock. Each of the character has ups and downs, actually more downs then ups, but we are in Woody Allen movies, nobody is really hungry, suffering is existential, and despite all problems in life there is always money for good meals and whiskey.
The story can actually end at any point in time, ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later. Each of the characters goes through convulsions of fate, but the story and the film must end, as everything ends, but do not look for meanings about the ending, it just ends. The combination of skillful story telling and abrupt ending works well. As the end is not served on the tray it is the spectator who needs to fill it in with some meaning, if there is a meaning. Yet, the overall impression is of having seen a piece of life as Woody Allen understands life, and it is funny and well acted, as the actors seem comfortable enough in Woody Allen's films, they like acting here, and in some cases they give some of the best roles (I liked the performances of Brolin, Jones and Watts).
There are little things that I know about the next year (no fortune telling skills, sorry), but one if them is that for sure there will be a new film by Woody Allen on the screens. Maybe it will be about a director making one movie each year, I do not know. Chances are that I will like it.
What started as comedic twists and a taste of the bittersweet life has slowly evolved into a harsh, but tragically honest depiction of life. With You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger the evolution seems to have been perfected.
The goofiness is basically gone and what's left plays like a drama with darkly humorous undertones. But it might just as well play as an horror film. Tragic, raw and beautiful. It's not his best, god knows he has done a lot of great work, but it's by far his most "pure" work to date.
Is delusions the only plays you can find happiness? Is the ideas of love and friendship simply a charade we hide behind? Do we simply get bored of each other? You know there's at least some truth here, but though I'm not ready to accept it all the very thought of it gives me chills.
Conveyed with such fabulous performances, particularly from Gemma Jones, and as is often the case with Allen, one heck of a script, Allen creates the perfect atmosphere. To put it in the simplest way possible - this is pretty close to being the perfect feel bad movie.
While many felt the ending to be abrupt, there is a certain irony to it, where the characters who were seeking more than what they had continue to be unsatisfied, while those who were satisfied with what they had and lose it, find that happiness again (like the two idiots at the end). Allen's writing is faulty in places. For example, when Roy reveals to Dia how he had been peeping at her through their windows, instead of being concerned or excited, she acts as though his behaviour was that of a gentleman.
On the technical side, the film is well shot, in the typical Woody Allen (70s and 80s) fashion. The cinematography and soundtrack are amusing. The sets look polished but not staged.
Allen assembles a strong cast. Most of the performances are excellent. Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Naomi Watts and Lucy Punch own their scenes. Antonio Banderas too shines in a subtle performance and Josh Brolin is great as the self-centered writer. Freida Pinto was the weakest link. In all fairness, her character suffered from flawed writing.
While this may not rank among Allen's best work, it's still worth a watch especially for those who enjoyed the kind of cinema he made in the 70s and 80s.
Their lives change when Helena meets a widower that is her twin soul and Alfie finds that he is a cuckold and Charmaine is pregnant. Roy and Sally split, and Sally, who had fantasized an affair with her boss, finds that Greg sees her as a co-worker and friend only. Further, her mother will no longer lend a large amount to her to open her own gallery following Cristal's advice. And Roy, who moved to Dia's apartment, finds that Strangler has not died but is in coma instead.
"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is a witty and ironic tale of fantasies and the power of prophecy by Woody Allen. The black humor governs the situations that each character has to face and the price they have to pay with their fantasies and attitudes. Alfie has to support a slut as the price for his belief that he could be younger again and have a son. Sally is unmarried and unemployed for believing that her boss desires her and her mother will help her to open her own gallery. Roy is in trouble since he has built his new life based on the novel of his friend that seems to be recovering. Only the naive and irrational Helena is happy in her lunatic world and reality. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Você Vai Conhecer o Homem dos Seus Sonhos" ("You Will Meet the Man of Your Dreams")
The comedy comes with the arrival of Charmaine (Lucy Punch) - the "actress" that Anthony Hopkins is marrying. I found it interesting that at the sight of this most ludicrous relationship, the other characters, all at various stages of mid-life crises, then pushed forward to get their lives and relationships sorted out. Allen didn't spend much time analyzing the various loves and consequences, more just saying here they are, you can laugh at them if you wish. I laughed a little bit.
I found that Anthony Hopkins and Lucy Punch stood out of this all-star cast. Hopkins' character, nearing 70, married the much younger Punch and joined a gym after suffering his mid-life crisis. Antonio Banderas played a gallery owner and I was quite impressed with his subtle comedy and muted sexual presence. Josh Brolin played the neurotic writer that Allen himself would have played in earlier years. At first he seemed out-of-place, but I think that's part of the joke, and like Banderas, I was impressed with his subtle comedy.
I am a Woody Allen devotee, and although I found "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" lacks most of his intelligent wit, it still had his subtle jabs at his characters who each represent facets of today's society. And I still recommend it because it's better than most other films you can find.
The low rating reflects not necessarily the production values (which are almost perfect even though the film is horrid) but the blow to "media ecology" that the planet must endure when an artiste WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER wastes talent like it grew on trees.
The "magic" here is that somehow Allen coaxed some of the best actors on the planet to give one of the worst performances of their lives.
Don't know where to start. Brolin, he of the broad facial testosterone markers, plays a simpering wimp. Watts, who almost never looks lost in a role, acts like she would rather be somewhere else. Hopkins and Bandiaras are playing variants of role they have played many times before, which suggests that, if nothing else, you are better off watching those performances, not these.
And the trademark Allen voice-over, an egoistic affectation if ever there was, serves the same role as the Surgeon General's warning on a pack of cigarettes.