'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' (dir: Woody Allen, 2010/2011), Cert: 12A
Most people, and certainly film fans will have a favourite person within the film industry, particularly an actor or director. Well my favourite is the multi-talented Woody Allen who is still churning out pictures which he has written and directed annually. His latest offering, ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ is certainly splitting audiences and critics alike, so I was hoping to be on the supportive side. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and many more. It’s also another film Allen has made here in the United Kingdom.
The film follows two couples; Alfie (Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) Shebritch, and Sally (Watts) and Roy (Brolin) Channing. The couples are faced with the typical ups and downs of married life, work life and personal ambitions which cause friction in their relationships and force them to look out for whom and what surround them. Roy begins to fall for Dia (Freida Pinto); a beauty draped in red, whilst Sally becomes close to her new boss Greg (Antonio Banderas). Alfie becomes smitten with Charmaine (Lucy Punch); a feisty younger woman who’s happy to drain his bank account and Helena finds her comfort in soothsaying when she becomes obsessed with visiting a fortune teller called Cristal (Pauline Collins).
Now from the synopsis it’s fair to say this has ‘typecast’ Woody Allen written all over it; he’s the master of character studies and his pictures about relationships present a charming and satisfying, but often realistic and moralistic depiction of what it means to be with or without someone. It’s clear that his previous works have shaped this film because in a certain respect, ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ is just a fluffier and lighter version of ‘Match Point’ (2005) or ‘Husbands and Wives’ (1992), and if this is all that some are seeing then I understand why people haven’t particularly warmed to this movie. However, I think there is more to it than that and yes, I might be bias but I thought ‘YWMATDS’ was a perfectly good and enjoyable picture.
It’s certainly not astonishing, nor is it up there with any of his best, but it’s far better than some of the other rubbish that’s out there at the moment and it makes me happy to know that there’s still a market for this type of filmmaking out there. ‘YWMATDS’ isn’t anything you haven’t seen before or will see, but its characters are well-rounded and believable, it’s often funny and witty, and it keeps its pace up and forces the story along nicely. It’s obvious the film’s main selling point was its ensemble cast which is impressive and thankfully not a problem because quite often the larger the cast, the poorer the movie; there’s just too much talent bouncing off each other trying to absorb the most limelight and it usually results in a dull movie. This film avoids that by splitting its characters and not making them constantly interlock; they are given their own space and screen time which works nicely and keeps the themes and storylines simple.
|Still from 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' (dir: Woody Allen, 2010/2011)|
At points the film does trip up a little, but it regains it’s footing efficiently and doesn’t allow the time to dwell on past events. Allen is one of the few filmmakers who actually like to make shorter films so timing and processing is essential in order to make a snappy and effective motion picture. This film runs at 98 minutes which is actually quite long for an Allen movie but the time rolls on by quite happily.
The cast is very good overall and its members play each character with conviction and believability. Watts and Brolin are great as Sally and Roy, Hopkins and Jones are a lot of fun as Alfie and Helena, Pinto is interesting as Dia and plays her character with great skill, Banderas is perfectly fine, but the star of the show is Punch’s character Charmaine who provides the majority of laughs, and indeed squirms with her cringe-worthy attitude and dress sense. Punch is a great comedic actress and this film has shown her potential.
I think all the negativity regarding this film is because of just how much of a comfort zone Allen is with this film, I suppose it’s fair to think that he does not have to try, that he’s just putting this out into cinemas because he can. Again, I disagree and I think his directing and scriptwriting skills are massively apparent in all his works, even in the bad pictures, but repetition can become frustrating so if you’re not much of a Woody fan, I’d leave this one alone. However, if you are a fan I think there’s plenty to please and entertain here and I’m sure it’ll leave a smile on your face. I enjoyed it very much.
Not essential Allen by any means, but well worth a watch and certainly one of the better romantic comedy/dramas of the year so far.
By Chris Haydon