Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Rated: R
Stars: Gemma Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Lucy Punch, Freida Pinto
Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Drama/comedy

There are no single, lonely people at the beginning of Woody Allen's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger-- just married and lonely people--ready and ripe to fall under someone else's spell and rekindle the fire of romance that all too quickly peters out in the day to day reality of monogamous "bliss."

Helena (Gemma Jones) is a ditzy old gal who has been divorced by Alfie, (Anthony Hopkins) and now she's seeing a "fortune teller" who tells her just what she wants to hear. Alfie falls for a young opportunistic prostitute named Charmaine, (Lucy Punch) who likes the finer things in life that he can provide her--as long as his money holds out! Alfie and Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is married to once promising--but now frustrated--writer Roy, (Josh Brolin) who has an eye for the exotic young guitar player in the window across the way, Dia (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire). Sally, who works at a high-profile art gallery, develops a thing for her boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas).

But are they all delusional?

In You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen is exploring the idea of faith, or more accurately, the tendency that many of us have to want to believe in something--often another person--to the point where we are willing to believe only what we want to believe, and don't confuse us with the facts.

Woody's endearing (at least to me) brand of cynicism tinged with irony is all over this one--his fourth in a row set in London--but the sense that he is literally speaking through his characters, so apparent in some previous films, (I could close my eyes and hear his voice, even through his female characters, which was freaky) isn't present here--perhaps refreshingly so.

Quite an impressive cast he's assembled--and Gemma Jones is a hoot as Helena, who goes on ad nauseam about reincarnation as if she'd never heard of the concept before... happy as a clam because her psychic has told her she has lived before and will live again. (Not everyone--the Buddhists for example--are pleased about that wheel turning round and round and going back, Jack, and doing it again!)

But it's Lucy Punch as Charmaine--the happy hooker supposedly gone straight who is now Alfie's wife-- still playing him for all he's worth while maintaining an air of bewildered innocence, even when he catches her in the act with some young buck, who upstages them all.

Anthony Hopkins, who I never thought was very scary as Hannibal Lecter, is more believably cast as a guy who's extending his mid-life crisis--and all the delusional flamboyance that goes along with that-- into his golden years.

And there's a delicious twist at the end of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger that reinforces Woody Allen's philosophical bent that oft-times you can't win for losing.