Runtime: 98 minutes
Grade: C+ Scene Says: Woody Allen falls into self-parody with by-the-numbers family drama.
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” Woody Allen’s latest endeavor, presents a convoluted tale of love, life and death with that special directorial touch. Or, as someone in the audience whispered succinctly, it’s “so Woody Allen.”
The story begins with Helena (Gemma Jones), who is visiting fortune-teller Crystal (Pauline Collins) for the first time. Poor, gullible Helena has become a burden for her daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), and her son-in-law, Roy (Josh Brolin). Sally decides that it might be best to send her mother to see Crystal, a phony psychic, stating that “sometimes the illusions work better than the medicine.” Soon we are presented the cause of Henena’s problems: her ex-husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins). Alfie left his wife because she “allowed herself to become old,” and he seems to be going through a very messy (and prolonged) mid-life crisis. He is obsessed with staying young and has plans to marry an “actress” — see also: hooker, gold digger — who is younger than his daughter. There’s nothing like unhappy, unfulfilled characters to fuel an Allen plot. Roy and Sally are having trouble in their marriage. Roy, a literary one-hit wonder, can’t get his second novel published, and Sally is desperate to start a family. Soon, Sally is seriously flirting with the idea of having an affair with her new (also married) boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy is seriously — shamelessly — flirting with Dia (Freida Pinto), the young woman who recently moved into the building next door.
It’s complicated, but after all is said and done, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” ends up being a typical “be careful what you wish for” tale. One could say that the moral of the story is “be happy with and grateful for what you already have.” Nonetheless, the film is a fun and silly ride — but one doesn’t expect it to be one. With a cast like the one Allen has, one would expect the movie to have an exciting finish, but that big finish never arrives. A wonderful cast providing solid performances is more or less left hanging by the writer/director.