The Austin Chronicle

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Rated R, 98 min. Directed by Woody Allen. Narrated by Zak Orth. Starring Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Pauline Collins.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Oct. 15, 2010

Allen gives the best bits – two, by my count – to the only underclass characters in his latest romantic roundelay, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. In the first, a pragmatic fortuneteller named Cristal (Collins) is at her sink, doing the dishes, while her client, a senior-aged divorcée named Helena (Jones), pours another scotch – on the clock – and weeps about her ex-husband Alfie (Hopkins), who dropped her because, in his own chilling estimation, Helena let herself get old. Later, we see Alfie’s nubile new bride, Charmaine (Punch), a reformed hooker, rather majestically wiggle her ass at a dance club. They are the dreammakers; less charitably, you could call them both charlatans. They’re also the only full-blooded characters in a sea of anemics. Is it London that makes everyone so wan? Libido ostensibly drives them all – Alfie to ditch wife No. 1 and get fit, his daughter Sally (Watts) to make eyes at her art-gallery-owning boss (Banderas), and Sally’s failed novelist husband, Roy (Brolin, boorish and frankly unbearable), to court their comely neighbor (Pinto) – but it’s a weirdly inert kind of libido. (Brolin can barely move under the weight of his comically bad bush of hair.) In theory, there are some interesting ideas burbling here: How disaffection pushes these characters to marinate in drink; how they “solve” their simplest problems by making even more; how they assiduously avoid truth-telling to avoid confrontation, only to be confronted with the inevitable fallout of so many lies. In theory, yes. But in practice, and played as farce, the characters are one-dimensional cutouts kept at a dogged remove. Their miseries are a bore – maybe to Allen, too, who abruptly ends the film, after so much inaction, when it finally catches some dramatic traction. Still, who can blame him? I know I couldn’t get away from these shrill, complaining people fast enough. 

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