There were two filmmakers that I’ve seen all of their works: Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen. So when either of these giants of the cinema release a brand new film I am there. Excitedly I rushed to see the new Woody Allen, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of Woody Allen’s better films.
The film revolves around one family: Helena, newly divorced from her husband Alfie, who has been finding solace from a fraudulent clairvoyant claiming to be able to tell her future. Then there is Sally, Helena’s daughter. She works for an art dealer and is married to Roy, a man who studied as a Doctor but gave it all up to be a writer. She has become infatuated with the art dealer and dreams of open her own art gallery as well as having a child. Roy, on the other hand, has fallen in love with his neighbour from across the way as he watches her from his bedroom window. Finally there is Alfie, who is suffering from a midlife crisis in his later years and is planning to marry a gold digging “actress” called Charmaine.
The trouble with this film is that we’ve been here many, many times before and Allen has taken us on this journey in much funnier films. Returning once again to set his film in London, the dialogue seems very forced and unnatural. When Allen was making his comedies in New York he had a feel for the avant Garde, slightly pretentious New Yorker. In his London movies, however, he cannot quite get that middle class English patter. So it comes across as being clumsy.
Surrounding himself once again with a top notch cast, even some of them failed to shine. Naomi Watts, usually a fine actress, struggles here not only with the stilted dialogue but actually finding any real emotional depth of the character. Antonio Banderas is the art dealer seems to have just wandered onto the set, said his lines and gone.
Josh Brolin, playing Sally’s husband is fine but his motivations a little bit dubious. In one scene he tells Dia, played by Freida Pinto, that he found her undressing in her window slightly arousing. If somebody were to tell you that you would run a mile but not Ms Pinto. She finds it flattering. Not sure about that one.
So it is left to the underrated Gemma Jones as the naive Helena, who almost carries the film. She comes across as a woman who could be told absolutely anything and she would believe every word. The other joy about this film is the superb double act of Anthony Hopkins and Lucy Punch. As the complete the odd couple they light up every scene they are in. Hopkins, playing the role that was usually played by Woody Allen, is hilarious full of subtle nuances and gestures while Ms Punch is a comic revelation, obviously creating her character around a certain model/businesswoman/publicity hound. When they appear on screen the film lifts.
Allen will probably keep on making movies dealing with the same subject matter, love, death, sex, family disharmony, infidelity, and other neurosis. And I will probably keep going to see them, just wishing for another Annie Hall, which are still the garden is his greatest triumph to date.