Wednesday, 23 March 2011

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

2010. Dir: Woody Allen. Starring: Gemma Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and Antonio Banderas. ●●○○○

There's a sense of trepidation that sinks in whenever Woody Allen releases another picture. Where will it fit in the canon? How many times will I laugh? Will I regret the ticket price? Will it be better or worse than his last picture (like a neverending higher or lower card game)? Well the answers for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger are as follows: Pretty low. Very few. Yes. And this is both better and worse than Whatever Works - better because the characters and morality is nowhere near as repugnant and worse because there isn't the experimentation and concepts that drove his previous film.

The overstuffed plot follows couples Gemma Jones and Anthony Hopkins and their daughter Naomi Watts with Josh Brolin as their relationships breakdown and they find themselves back on the dating game with (respectively) Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Lucy Punch, Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto. Each of these relationships seems to be doomed to failure for the exact reasons that they are brought together - a mix of ennui and foreshadowing covers the players clearly indicating their individual fates.

The performances range from the reasonably entertaining - Antonio Banderas gets away with a hesitant charm and a tendancy to prevaricate - to the downright offensive; Lucy Punch doing to English high-class hookers what Mira Sorvino did for her American contemporaries only making it sound like a Catherine Tate impersonator. With some of the others barely registering. Anthony Hopkins in particular needs to get a new phone to deliver his performances through.

Of course this smorgasboard of talent would be forgiven if the writing was clever or witty. Unfortunately there's little realism in the script - nearly everytime Naomi Watts as the patient Sally, trying to remain sane as everyone else falls apart, speaks I found myself screaming inside "But no-one talks like that". Recrimination led arguments come and go with no sense of tension around them, mildly offensive chat-up lines seem to have the female cast gazing tenderly into their male counterparts eyes.

The are whole sub-plots that appear and drift away with no real meaning or connection to the whole including Brolin's writing career, Pinto's engagement and the dead son of Hopkins and Jones which seems to exist only to make a cheap psychological connection to forward momentum of Hopkins. All this would be forgiveable if the central fortune telling storyline (featuring the delicious Pauline Collins hammily doling out phoney advice to the neurotic Gemma Jones) was given the necessary room to breathe and develop.

The design is fine, location shooting fine and the jazzy score fine - but nothing we haven't seen before from Allen and it's not a London that I recognise that's for sure.

I wouldn't bother with this one, if I were you, just cross your fingers that Woody will find form again with his next picture so I can ask those leading questions again.


Alex in Movieland said...

bad, but definitely not as offensive as Whatever Works... at least this one was easy to watch.

Nothings stands out for me, except for Gemma Jones's quite interesting performance, as she gets the character with most potential. yes, I liked her.

Runs Like A Gay said...

It's just another bad Woody Allen movie, but better than WW (marginally).

Gemma was OK, but I found the character too odd to be likeable.