Woody Allen’s 2010 film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger falls into familiar Allen-esque territory. The dialogue seems casual enough that it could possibly be improvised yet each line is drenched in Allen’s dry humour and knowledge. I find that his films are almost just as much as a history lesson as they are a piece of art.
The script was inspired by Allen being,
“interested in the concept of faith in something. This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t. I’ve known people who have put their faith in religion and in fortune tellers. So it occurred to me that that was a good character for a movie: a woman who everything had failed for her, and all of a sudden, it turned out that a woman telling her fortune was helping her. The problem is, eventually, she’s in for a rude awakening.
The character to which he is referring is played by Gemma Jones. She loses her husband of forty years, played by Anthony Hopkins, and finds comfort in a woman who her daughter, played by Naomi Watts, asked to pretend to be a psychic. She is given the fortune that she will meet a tall dark stranger (very vague) but it does the trick in restoring her deterred hope in love and moving on. Meanwhile her husband is trying to lead the bachelor lifestyle in his twilight years, which ultimately ends in him meeting a cheap trick (played by Lucy Punch) whom he marries and wastes his fortune on. By the end of the film, Jones is the only one who seems to have found a form of happiness while the relationships around her are falling a part.The overall theme of the film is the pointlessness of life and that by reaching for something intangible our journey through the unknown can be a little more bearable.
There are some things I have to question about this film, and it is mainly the acting. Though Allen managed to hire incredibly talented performers, I found none of them engaging (aside from Jones) as they all became increasingly more annoying as the narrative flowed in Allen’s typical linear, yet not, fashion. I wanted to strangle Naomi Watts by the end as her character became utterly insufferable and her dialogue just did not translate the way it was intended to. I also did not understand Frida Pinto’s and Antonio Banderas’ characters or what real purpose they served other than to look pretty for the camera. I guess their role was to be the instigator of curiosity, causing Watts and Josh Brolin to part ways. An initially happy married couple, their relationship proves unfulfilling when his promising writing career leaves her struggling to pay the bills. Brolin is the only character that I was torn between liking and loathing, and if played by any other actor this character would have been a complete disaster. I am going to be a little biased and let this slide just because I am a huge fan of his previous work in films such as No Country for Old Men and Milk.
To conclude, let me just say that I am still waiting for a Woody Allen feature in the upcoming decade that mirrors Match Point (2005) or Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008). Midnight in Paris (2011) is pretty close, but I find that these other two films have more depth rather than just playing on the surface of love and skimming the water of life.
Peter Bradshaw of the “UK Guardian” sums up Allen’s latest film attempts beautifully in his review of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, saying,
“Like a spry veteran jockey, he goes on galloping round the course, not riding winners, but not falling off either…”
Could not agree more!