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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.
The story from this movie may sound as a comedy, or as a drama about marital crisis and romantic disappointments. However, the problem from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is that...it is nothing. There are some vaguely humorous moments and serious scenes, but after all, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger lacks of a defined purpose or, for the case, a specific objective in order to validate so many characters and so many conflicts. Needless to say that the classic subjects from Allen are present in this movie: insecurity, neurosis, fear of old age...but something which was absent was the narrative "glue" in order to naturally integrate them to the story, instead of appearing as a collection of vaguely interconnected scenes. Some people may say that the real life is like that, unpredictable and lacking of any logic in various times, because it is not subject to the will from a screenwriter. If that was Allen's intention, I have to say that he made a "real" movie, without a beginning or an end. Pity that it was such a tedious and uninteresting movie.
The cast from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger includes various excellent actors (Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Gemma Jones, Philip Glenister, Pauline Collins, Fenella Woolgar, Celia Imrie and Christian McKay), but I did not find any of them to be credible in their roles. I do not know if they were badly selected, or if Allen did not offer enough direction for them to adapt to the tone required by the movie. The result is that all the performances feel forced...like if the actors feel uncomfortable in their roles.
In conclusion, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is a very bad movie which in my humble opinion, represents the lowest point in Allen's career so far. The huge disappointment I took with this movie is not only because it is in the context Allen's career, but also because, on a simpler level, the movie is terribly boring. I hope Allen recovers from this disaster in his next movie.
One dumps his aging wife to chase after young women and eventually marries a hooker so preposterously crude and stupid that you look forward with relish to the misery that is sure to plague him.
Another is a self-absorbed one-hit novelist who fritters away his days while his wife works for a living. He sponges off his mother in law while treating her with contempt. Eventually he poses as an accomplished novelist and convinces a woman about to be married to dump her fiancé. To prove his prowess as a novelist, he steals a manuscript by a more talented friend who is in a coma and submits it to a publisher as his own.
The third, his wife, assumes that her married boss has a thing for her when in fact he is having an affair with her friend.
Only the fourth, the mother-in-law, ends up reasonably happy with her new love--and she is completely batty.
Some of Woody Allen's hilarious humor would have helped us to forget the fact that none of these characters shows the slightest trace of real emotion or is even likable.
This movie is really a cold fish.
I can't recall any of the characters seeming likable or interesting, but at least a couple of them seemed intended to seem so.
He does still have his devoted followers who seem to like anything he does. But the boring characters (some from TV sitcoms) and same music played over and over just made me wish the film would end. I didn't laugh once, and as I left the theater I didn't ponder anything other than why I'd paid money to see this movie. It did have some potential, but in the end there was nothing.
Here is a convoluted recap of the story: Elderly woman Helena (Gemma Jones) is dumped by her doesn't want to admit he's aging husband Alfie (Anthony Hopkins). He tries to be a swinging bachelor and ends up marrying a gold-digging call girl named Charlamaine (Lucy Punch). Helena looks for guidance from Cristal (Pauline Collins),a fortune teller referred by Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts). Sally is married to Roy (Josh Brolin), a morally bankrupt one-hit wonder in the novel-writing business. She works at a very successful art gallery run by Greg (Antonio Banderas). Sally and Roy yell at each other a lot and Sally has eyes for Greg, who instead has eyes for Iris (Anna Friel), a painter Sally discovered. Roy has peeping eyes for Dia (Freida Pinto), whom he can see from his bedroom window.
So, you get the idea. It is actually a set-up that fits perfectly with a Woody Allen film. A madcat story where no one is happy with their life and they each seek proof of their worth. Interesting that they seem to have some security with their current partner, but it's just not enough. The cast is stellar, and London makes the perfect setting. However, nothing really clicks. Manly Josh Brolin just doesn't wear neurosis well. I didn't enjoy watching Naomi Watts yell at people. Anthony Hopkins' character is such a pathetic re-tread that it really annoyed me. Mr. Allen obviously finds Freida Pinto appealing because her character gets perfect lighting and comes across as a victim, despite dumping her fiancé.
Despite all the turns in these sub-plots, only one of the stories really has any finality to it. Now I don't mind endings that leave much to the imagination, but I do get irritated when it appears the filmmaker just lost interest. Even when that filmmaker is Woody Allen.
These are only 3 examples from j z a p p a's review and Dr Simons's piece - compare:
S More, it's about the misguided ways in which we all deal with the fact that one day, as the writer Roy in the movie says, we're going to meet the "tall dark stranger" who is not a lover but the grim reaper. vs JZ More, it's about the imprudent manner in which we all cope with the truth that one day, a character in the movie says, we're going to meet the "tall dark stranger," not a lover but the grim reaper.
S Then there's Roy, a writer, who wants to live forever by writing novels. When he sees the limitations in his talent that would keep him from historically lasting fame, he steals a novel from a dying man, to cheat his way into public memory. vs JZ Brolin longs to achieve immortality through his work. When he sees the limits in his flair for it that would hinder him from enduring renown, he steals a novel from a dying man.
S There's a color-based counterpoint in Alfie and Helena, too. Both appear throughout the whole movie in white outfits. Alfie's white comes to represent the medicinal sterility of his desire to live forever; Helen's white represents her growing affinity for the angels. vs JZ There's a color-centered counterpoint in Hopkins and Jones, too. Both appear all through the film in white clothes. His white comes to characterize the therapeutic unproductive of his longing to achieve immortality, hers her budding adulation for the white light.
People, you get easily caught in the age of the internet. Don't be a prick, don't COPY.
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.
"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" tells the superficially wonderful life of an old man, who feels his life slipping away as he grows old. He leaves his wife, causing her to become neurotic, depending on a clairvoyant to sooth her nerves. Their daughter is trapped in an unhappy marriage, while her husband is dying to prove himself that he is still worthy of something. Given such well developed and convincing backgrounds, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" can only be a great film on character analysis. There is not a moment of boredom, all the characters are attractive and engaging in their own way. In true Woody Allen style, the characters are quirky, yet interesting and adorable. The characters are not as paranoid as in previous films, which is a departure from his usual style. It is still a great effort, and I enjoyed watching it a lot.
Maybe someone who's never seen a Woody Allen movie before would enjoy this film. Everyone else will instantly recognize the same tired themes that he's explored ad nauseum, not to mention the numerous plot points that rip off his own movies. There's a lot going on in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," none of it interesting. It exists in a strange limbo: the characters and their problems aren't compelling enough to make for engaging drama, but nothing about the film is funny either. Only one plot point, that involving a struggling writer who passes off another writer's novel as his own and then finds out that not only is the other writer not dead (as he thought) but is likely to emerge from his coma, has dramatic possibilities. Allen could have done something dark and rich with that storyline, along the lines of "Crimes and Misdemeanors" or "Match Point," or he could have gone the screwball comedy route. He doesn't do either.
It's not really worth mentioning the cast, since they're all wasted, but it includes Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Josh Brolin and Antonio Banderas. The only memorable performance comes from Lucy Punch as a low-class hooker/wanna be movie star, and though the plot she's part of is just an unfunny rehash of "Mighty Aphrodite," a fresh breeze wafted across the screen whenever she made an appearance.
Alfie Shebritch (Anthony Hopkins) is an older man married to Helena (Gemma Jones). He decides to have a (somewhat late) midlife crisis, finds a bimbo, and leaves his wife.
Meanwhile, their daughter, Sally Channing (Naomi Watts) is leaving her husband Roy (Josh Brolin) because she has fallen in love with Greg (Antonio Banderas).
Meanwhile, Roy . . .
Allen has the clout to surround himself with these fine actors, and his movies--including this one--demonstrate his complete command of the medium. The problem is that he's writing and directing the same romantic comedy over and over.
I saw the movie on DVD and it worked well on the small screen. I think it's worth seeing if you're in the mood for fine actors in a lightweight comedy. If you're in the mood for more than this, find another film.
This movie seems to be saying that with all the setbacks this idiot mercilessly visits on men and women alike, the only way to cope with the unfolding of his tale is by going charmingly bonkers. The prime example for this is the character of Helena (Gemma Jones in great form), the hard-drinking suicide-manqué, who, under the guidance of a charlatan seer, comes to terms with it all by believing she had had earlier lives in French settings. She succeeds in happily connecting with one of the ugliest and most meshuge men to be found anywhere on the British Isles these days. Everybody else in this movie, has a goal that is frustrated by reality, and the sparks of conflict all this generates ignite the plot.
Particularly, Helena's unhappily married daughter Sally (Naomi Watts), like Flaubert's Emma Bovary before her (and there can be no doubt that Woody Allen deliberately plays on this precedent), goes to a performance of "Lucia di Lammermoor" with Greg, a man who wants to start having an affair with her (Antonio Banderas, better directed, and better made up than in any movie since he left his native Spain). Though strongly attracted to Greg, Sally does not yield to temptation, only to later deeply regret her post-operatic resistance, and head into a messy divorce and a major reversal in her career. No earlier lives for this modern woman!
Amusingly, the scene in which Sally does not respond to Greg's advances takes place in a fancy Audi on a London street, while the corresponding scene in which Madame Bovary does accept Léon Dupuis' advances takes place during a most famous ride in a horse-drawn carriage along the streets of Rouen.
Like in all Allen movies, there is a character clearly designed to be played by the director himself. For reasons hard to understand, Woody Allen has not cast himself in this movie but has opted for Anthony Hopkins to play the part of Alfie, I guess Michael Caine was not available. There is one scene in particular in which this extremely fine British actor executes a series of gestures which are clearly the same Woody Allen would execute at this point. This is funny indeed, but I would have preferred to see Allen himself at this point.
The movie sparkles with Allen's marvelous wit, and one can safely ignore all the nonsense about this movie The New York Times has seen fit to print. To my mind, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is vintage Allen.