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An odd film for Allen, neither an overt comedy or one of his dark serious films (e.g. 'Crimes and Misdemeanors'). This is a 'light' drama, something he hasn't done much. While far from Allen's best work, I felt more warmly towards it than most of the press, especially after a second viewing. Some of the criticisms are valid; the voice over narration feels out of tone with the film, and at times tells us too literally what we already know. Yet, in the current American cinema, how many film-makers are getting to even and try and address the complex subtle questions of grown-up relationships, aging and the fear of death, and the lies we tell ourselves to get through it all? Or deal with the paradox that humans seem to need something to believe in, and yet that same belief can also lead us astray? Or give great older actors like Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones really meaty roles? As long as Allen keeps asking questions, he'll remain a voice worth listening to.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Something is happening to Woody Allen ... or to me ... not clear
exactly what, but I started to like more his latest films.
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.
The goofy comedian has always been a pessimist. True love has never
existed in his films and his couples rarely find happiness together.
Despite of this, his films has never been as scary as this.
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.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, the latest Woody Allen's film is light, airy, lacy, elegant, sad, bittersweet and tender, just like a Boccherini musical piece for guitar that a beautiful young woman was playing sitting next to the window in a London apartment/flat. It is also funny, sharp, mocks the absurdity of existence, and manages to highlight the insignificance and callousness of the characters yet not to judge them while letting them search for "bell' alma inamorata", and are not we all searching? Allen is still the master of his craft, the creator of charming dra-medies. His favorite and constant themes of lives and deaths of the relationships, of growing older and refusing to accept it, of trying to postpone the inevitable meeting with a "tall dark stranger", of struggle to find the reason in a tale, "full of sound and fury", are all here. But he knows how to look at the familiar material from the unusual angle by mixing masterfully humor and seriousness, light touch and insight in the right proportions to explore the desires, longings, and motivations of the characters. One of the themes Allen was interested while working on the Tall Dark Stranger was faith in something because it is for humans to prefer the power of self-delusions over the darkness of bitter truths. He said: "This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can't." Sounds too serious but it is Allen's film, and is ironic, witty, and light. I ask myself why I love Allen's films so much and always wait for them impatiently. One of the reasons, he makes them for adults and about adults. His target audiences want to see a clever intelligent film without being manipulated or spoon fed. I admire Allen for respecting his viewers: "I never write down to them. I always assume that they're all as smart as I am . . . if not smarter". Or, more likely, I love his films because the beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and my eyes are always open to the beauty of his films. They are so perfectly constructed and framed. They look and sound terrific. While watching them, I don't understand how can they not be liked and admired by everyone? His short films are not small to me. I need them and I always will.
Woody Allen's latest, the aptly titled You Will Meet A Tall Dark
Stranger is a tragicomic tale of dysfunctional families, spiced with a
little woo-woo. Needless to say, a familiar concept to Allen. This time
it's two generations of middle class Londoners trying to get by and
search for happiness, mainly on the romantic front, and the woo-woo
that connects the stories together comes in the form of a fortune
Look at the accomplished cast. If you like their previous work, you will not be disappointed with what they bring to their roles. Keep in mind the characters are pretty much all written as selfish types, and not too bright. The misadventures they get into are all self inflicted - the fortune teller's stars neither help nor peril, unless they let them.
Nonetheless you will get embarrassed for the characters and the situations they get themselves into, and just when the state of affairs reach their pinnacle, Allen shifts gear and detaches the viewer. This is an intentional habit of his (his films are unashamed entertainment), perhaps alienating some fans of heavier drama but it works for me. The storyline of Roy (Josh Brolin) and his literary activities is a fine example. The affair between Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Charmaine (Lucy Punch) another. In Allen's films things always gravitate towards absurd, yet without losing touch of cinematic reality. I thought Greg (Antonio Banderas) delivered the best line: "You see... how beautiful and ironic life is".
Though there is no actual main character of whose view point the viewer is invited to take, two women, mother Helena (Gemma Jones) and daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) are at the center of it all. The mother keeps seeing the fortune teller (Pauline Collins) and insists spreading her "advice" to less enthusiastic daughter who doesn't object as long as the news are good. Allen has a knack for showing things from women's point of view, and Naomi Watts' role would have fit Mia Farrow - Diane Keaton not so much - in the past.
Another Allen trait is his (over)use of narration, present here as well. It fits the style but seems to somehow take away re-watch value, and affords the film maker to get lazy with proper pacing. The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985) didn't need it, did it? But then again it didn't have gags involving viagra or stds either, so perhaps this isn't the best comparison (take it as a parental advisory instead).
I usually admire the cinematography in Woody Allen films. For his best of recent years, take a look at Scoop (2006) and see how marvellous it looks. But not anymore. Mr. Allen, you definitely should not switch to a hand-held camera when the drama gets physical. Therefore I give this film only a 7/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In London, Helena Shebritch (Gemma Jones) has a broken heart since her
husband Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) had had a third age crisis and left her
seeking his lost youth. She meets the charlatan fortune teller Cristal
Delgiorno (Pauline Collins) and follows her esoteric advices believing
in the power of prophecy. Alfie meets the younger call girl Charmaine
Foxx (Lucy Punch) and proposes her. Meanwhile, their daughter Sally
Channing (Naomi Watts) has financial difficulties with her husband and
aspirant writer Roy Channing (Josh Brolin). Roy is graduated in medical
school but has never worked as a doctor since he had written a
successful first novel and decided to follow the career of writer but
he never succeeds in writing a good second novel. Sally starts working
in the Geller Gallery and has a crush on her handsome boss Greg
(Antonio Banderas), while Roy peeps and flirts through the window with
his neighbor Dia (Freida Pinto) that is always dressed in red. When
Roy's poker friend Henry Strangler, who had written a magnificent novel
and showed only to Roy, has a fatal car accident with their other poker
friend Mike, Roy misunderstands that Strangler died and he steals his
manuscript that is successfully accepted by the editor to be published.
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")
In "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" we are swiftly introduced to
the complicated plot with who is married to whom, who is cheating with
whom, and who is in love with whom. I found that the slowest part. I
wasn't able to find much of Allen's underlying comedy in all of the
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.
Set this time in England, Woody Allen once again invites us into a
world of irony and people wanting 'better' than what they have as their
present does not fulfill their satisfaction. The title is quite open to
interpretation. It gives the impression of 'the prince charming' that
straight women fantasize about and dream to end up with. However, there
is also another hint which refers to the chaperon who is waiting at the
finish line. Rather than exploring, this time Allen just gives us a
glimpse into the lives of his key characters. All the characters are in
an unfulfilling relationship. Helena (Gemma Jones) is abandoned by
Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and seeks comfort in a prostitute (Lucy Punch)
younger than his own daughter. His daughter Sally (Naomi Watts)
fantasizes about her boss (Antonio Banderas) while her husband (Josh
Brolin) struggles to finish his novel until he peeps at Dia (Frieda
Pinto), his neighbour.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a good movie and I would watch five minutes of a Woody Allen movie rather than see 95% of the movies out there. Not to get sidetracked, but it's not ambitious so you don't have to know what happens exactly, you don't have to have it gift-wrapped, it just is, but it didn't set itself up to be groundbreaking philosophical conceptual contrived tripe. It's just a film, as Mr. Allen reminds us with his pretentiously mundane American voice-over narrator. Which turns the focus onto the characters and relationships. Which is a good place to be when you have great actors. I really enjoyed the film. But the main thing I felt compelled to say (and I haven't written anything on here in years) is that Anthony Hopkins is so good, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's hardly a 'crowning achievement' to his career, but it is to me, because he so earnestly and vulnerably performed this role, it defied many things (I'll name two): 1) his own career and his tendency to portray epic characters and all that intelligent bravado within.. in the movie he is completely defeated without even a proper stage, a flimsy (intentionally) comedy he has no business being in (of course he does), in which his character is confronted with mortality and insignificance, and ultimately the relevant question I know he must ask himself, and seeing him deal with that in the smallness of the medium was astounding. Truly astounding. Because also 2) He shatters the Woody Allen film formula stereotype. I was expecting the Anthony Hopkins version of Woody Allen, and there was some of that, a la Kenneth Branaugh in Celebrity. But whether it was all Hopkins or all Allen or both his portrayal rejects the typical neurotic response to Allen's comio-dramatic situations and instead shows us a golden vein of truth that for me was completely unexpected, impeccably performed and very moving. I had been a huge Hopkins fan since Nixon and in recent years had become leery of his projects to the extent I didn't bother to consider going to see them anymore. But I knew the combination of Woody Allen and he would be something special. For Allen fans, to me his acting breaks the Allen mold, crushes it, and I left the theater a bit unnerved and touched. I haven't read anyone else comment on this in a similar way and had to say something.
As with most Woody Allen screenplays there are moments of sheer delight
in what is essentially a comedy of errors based around the notion we
are always at our best when things are going for us. The story
essentially revolves around the lives of Helena and Alfie, Roy and
Sally, and Charmaine, Dia and Greg, the latter three representing the
catalysts for changes in fortune and demeanour. The essential hook upon
which lives change is, in this film, implied to be wishes if not spoken
aloud then certainly "notions" lying only just beneath the surface. We
observe the bad sides of people when things are going wrong. These
hooks should come about through a kind of synchronicity about which
Jung would have approved, but in this story, and in my opinion, the
manoeuvres seem rather too obvious, predictable and unsubtle. This kind
of lets the whole core message of the film down since grown ups should
know how the cookie can crumble.
The story is not played out as a farce, but as a comedy drama with romantic overtones, and the acting is assured and capable throughout with Gemma Jones (as Helena), Anthony Hopkins (as Alfie) and Lucy Punch (as Charmaine) taking the honours. It is a pity the screenplay is so uneven because there are some excellent exchanges between the characters along the way. Essentially what ruined the whole plot for me was a failure to exact true closure on the whole affair which I took to be the reason for a rather rushed end. Perhaps Mr Allen wanted me to feel let down with all the character demeanour exchanges but I just think he ran out of ideas.
Worth a glance but not vintage Allen.
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