Written and directed by Woody Allen, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is an ensemble comedy about a couple’s long relationship falling apart while their daughter’s marriage is also going into trouble as she falls for another man. Meanwhile, their son-in-law becomes fascinated by an exotic beauty he sees. The film is Allen’s fourth feature shot on location in London as it explores relationships falling apart as it delves into different age groups about the problems of love. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Lucy Punch, Antonio Banderas, Anna Friel, Pauline Collins, Ewen Bremner, and Roger Ashton-Griffiths. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is light-hearted although very messy film from Woody Allen.
After 40 years of marriage, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) leaves Helena (Gemma Jones) for a life of feeling young as Helena turns to a fortune teller Cristal (Pauline Collins) for help. Their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is going through financial struggles as she hopes to open an art gallery while her husband Roy (Josh Brolin) is having trouble trying to finish a novel having only achieved brief success with just one book. While Sally later gets a job working at an art gallery for a man named Greg (Antonio Banderas) whom she falls for while Roy starts to become entranced by a woman living across the street from him named Dia (Freida Pinto).
Alfie’s life is in an upswing where he marries a prostitute/actress named Charmaine (Lucy Punch) which revolts Sally as she helps introduce Greg to an artist friend named Iris (Anna Friel). Helena continues to seek advice from Cristal where she meets an occult bookseller named Jonathan (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) who is still mourning the loss of his wife. Roy’s frustrations over the lack of progress about his new book has him turning his attentions towards Dia as they become friends despite the fact that she’s engaged to be married. Sally’s infatuation with Greg has her realizing that something is going on as she and Roy start to fall apart due to the news over his new novel.
When Roy hears that his aspiring-novelist friend Henry (Ewen Bremner) had been killed in a car accident, Roy does something out of desperation so that he can impress Dia. Meanwhile, Alfie’s marriage to Charmaine starts to unravel due to her youthfulness as he wonders what he’s been doing. When Sally decides to strike out on her own, she confessions to Greg her feelings towards him as she realize that it will be a lot harder for her to start over. Notably as Roy’s life starts to take a dark turn when he is given some startling news as everyone ponders how did everything go wrong.
The film is about two different couples who fall out of love as they all seek to find some sort of new companionship or answers that will help them. Eventually, these four people and the new partners they meet would all face difficulty in their lives as they all wonder if they’ve made the right decision. Woody Allen’s screenplay does create characters that are quite compelling but a lot of them don’t really have qualities that are redeeming. Alfie is a fool while Helena is easily manipulated by the guidance of a possible fraud. Roy is an idiot who leaves a great chance to be a doctor as he becomes desperate to write another so he can impress this young woman. Sally meanwhile, is a woman who falls for an art gallery guy only to become jealous when he’s with someone else that she knows.
Allen’s script has a lot of storylines that tries to mesh itself together but often comes up as really uneven. While the voiceover narration by Zac Orth isn’t distracting as he tries to clue in what the characters are going through and their situations. Yet, it’s not enough to help the story where it often feels unnecessary at times. Allen’s direction is engaging at times for the way he lets the light-comedic moments unfold as well as a few dramatic moments. Still, there’s moments where Allen doesn’t do enough to keep it interesting as some of the intimate shots feels awkward at times. Despite some very good moments and interesting concepts, Allen ends up creating a film that is really cluttered with too many stories and a lot of un-likeable characters.
Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does a nice job with the cinematography to complement the colorful look of sunny London for its daytime scenes as a lot of it straightforward including the nightclub scenes where Alfie spends time with Charmaine. Editor Alisa Lepselter does a very good job with the editing to maintain something that has a bit of stylistic flairs while a lot of it just plays it straight. Production designer Jim Clay, along with set decorator John Bush and art director Dominic Masters, does an excellent job with the set pieces created such as the homes the characters live in that includes Alfie‘s posh apartment and the flat that Iris lives in filled with her paintings.
Costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor does a lovely job with the costumes created from the racy clothing that Charmaine sports to the array of red clothes that Dia wears that attracts the more casual Roy. Sound mixer Peter Glossop does a fine job with the sound to capture the locations around London such as its park and crowded places the characters go to. Music soundtrack producer Stefan Karrer does a superb job with the soundtrack as it features an array of different musical styles ranging from jazz, opera, and a flamenco theme revolves around Roy’s attraction towards Dia.
The casting by Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, Gail Stevens, and Juliet Taylor is wonderful as it features a great ensemble that includes appearances from Ewen Bremner as a writer friend of Roy, Christian McKay as one of Roy’s poker friends, Fenella Woolgar as a friend of Sally, Anupam Kher as Dia’s literary-loving father, and Neil Jackson as Dia’s fiancé Alan. Other notable small roles include Anna Friel as Sally’s artist friend Iris, Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Helena’s new spiritual beau Jonathan, and Pauline Collins in a very funny role as the fortune teller Cristal. Antonio Banderas is very good in a very low-key performance as the charming yet somber Greg while Freida Pinto is a joy to watch as the exotic Dia despite the fact that the script doesn’t give her a lot to do. Lucy Punch is very funny as the sexy and vivacious Charmaine who seems to enjoy the attention she gets from Alfie though she has a hard time dealing with his world and her needs.
Gemma Jones is quite fine as Helena for the way she always talks about her visits with Cristal and talking about her own issues as it’s a big part for Jones despite the fact that the character is sort of pathetic. Josh Brolin is excellent as Roy as he spouts all of the frustrations of being a failed writer while displaying a sensitivity to the scenes he has with Freida Pinto despite the fact that his character makes some bad decisions. Naomi Watts is wonderful as Sally, a woman with a crush on her boss as she ponders about her own future and the frustrations she has with the things happening around her. Finally, there’s Anthony Hopkins in a nice role as the vital Alfie where Hopkins gets to feel very youthful as well as be played by a fool as it’s very humorous performance from Hopkins.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is a troubled yet mediocre film from Woody Allen. Despite the talented cast he’s gotten to work with, it’s a film that has a lot of ideas but nothing to make it consistent along with characters people can root for. The film is among one of Allen’s worst features due to its willingness to try and do a lot but creates a film that is very confusing and uninspiring. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is an overall mess of a film from Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Films: What’s Up, Tiger Lily? - Take the Money & Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love & Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories-Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows & Fog - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don't Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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