Woody Allen’s latest film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is his 44th film as a director which is a feat so impressive we should just applaud him for a moment, right now. Done clapping? Good now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the disaster of a film that is his latest entry in his wide body of work. Seemingly stemming from a great moment of depression and despair, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is collage of retreaded material from his previous films done poorly and with little new to say. The film follows a series of encounters between married couples all facing problems in their relationships and current life crisis while yearning for something more. As they bump around in the dark searching for fantasies that don’t really exist, there’s a feeling of dread and hopelessness that cannot be avoided which ultimately taints the overall experience.
The host of characters that inhabit this version of Allen’s typical neurotic world are all unlikable for the most part. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) wakes up in the middle of night plagued by his own mortality and thusly abandons his loving wife of forty years Helena (Gemma Jones) for the carnal pleasure of youth. Meanwhile Helena’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) tries to comfort her by sending her to a fortune teller Cristal (Pauline Collins) because frankly she can’t deal with it. Sally has her own problems with her writer of a husband Roy (Josh Brolin) who once produced an acclaimed first novel only to find his career slowly washing up. This forces Sally to find a job of her own allowing her to become enthralled by her new boss, an art dealer by the name of Greg Clemente (Antonio Banderas). Any of these elements sounding familiar at all?
As the characters develop, the audience realizes that they are all fundamentally unhappy and pursuing fruitless fantasies in their life to provide some sort of satisfaction or fulfillment to their existence. Roy finds solace in a woman in red across the window from his apartment serenading him with classical guitar. Alfie falls for a former working girl half his age named Charmaine who he proposes to marry, sending Helena on a tailspin of love to find a companion before she dies. All of these intersections between the couples and the constant bad news are staples of Woody Allen’s films but what’s missing in this film is any kind of sympathy for anything. The characters are all extremely selfish and have little to offer in the way of compassion. In the end, all these characters are looking for the same and face the same fate, solace with a partner they love yet finding themselves noticeably absent.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is the fourth film Allen has shot in London and after the immensely successful Match Point which deviated enough from Allen’s increasingly stale cinematic style, it’s unfortunate to see him take a step back to his meandering ways. Much of the acting in the film is stilted, in particular Naomi Watts and Anthony Hopkins while Josh Brolin’s neurotic author is the one small saving grace. There are a few genuine chuckles throughout, but overall there is a constant sense that nothing in this film means anything so it’s hard to stay invested in the trite conventions of the narrative and dialogue. Much of Woody Allen’s body of work is about people’s inability to communicate with one another and have meaningful relationships in a meaningless world. More and more it seems the bigger issue at hand is Mr. Allen’s inability to connect successfully with the audiences of nowadays.
4 out of 10
What did you think of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger?