Directed by: Woody Allen | 90 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Gemma Jones, Pauline Collins, Anthony Hopkins, Rupert Frazer, Kelly Harrison, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto, Eleanor Gecks, Antonio Banderas, Ewen Bremner, Christian McKay, Philip Glenister, Jonathan Ryland, Pearce Quigley
If the weather is nice in film London, you know that sex is going to happen. Or there must be a comic talent at work. Both times hit the mark, in that regard you can say of Woody Allen’s latest film “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger”. Content? Tragicomic reflections on (the end and the beginning of) relationships. The tone? Mildly amusing. The cast? To lick your fingers.
And the title? “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” refers to a cliché from the vocabulary of fortune tellers; through that entrance the characters are introduced to us. They are somewhat predictable types, who initially arouse little sympathy. Go gardening, you think when you think of the complaining mater familias Helena (Gemma Jones); Obviously, Anthony Hopkins can play a loud crunch and we chuckle on command when he knocks back a Viagra; It is also credible that Naomi Watts may portray a slightly neurotic career woman with a desire to have children. But she looks so serious about it. And Josh Brolin – the ultimate tall dark stranger – gives the desired American brilliance to an otherwise understated British setting, but does he have the look of a novelist?
“You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” is a dialogue-driven actor film, and the highly revered cast seems to routinely pull through the first half of the film. The plot is not always original and the lyrics here and there even a bit old-fashioned. However, the film is built up well and the seating is certainly not unpleasant. When after an hour the mutual relationships fail, the added value of the top actors, who previously had to compete with characters like call girl Charmaine (a convincing squinting Lucy Punch), comes to the fore.
Just when you’ve made friends with the characters, it’s already over – a hearty amuse-bouche of its own. And if Woody Allen hadn’t done it before, painful scenes like the one between Sally (Watts) and her employer – a loosely played macho gallery owner by Antonio Banderas – would have been a bit better worked out and received. Woody Allen is still a craftsman, but the gentleness of the years makes his work just a little less meaningful.