You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Movie Review
Review by Nathan Samdahl (B-)
You may say that Woody Allen is past his prime or that his movies' themes no longer feel as fresh as they use to, but one thing you can't say is that the almost 75 year-old director is not prolific. With over ten films within the last ten years, Woody Allen keeps on churning them out. And not only that, but the stars seem to be showing up in greater force with each subsequent film. Sadly, there does not appear to be a direct correlation being greater star power and higher film quality. While many loved Vicky Christina Barcelona, I left the theater with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth wondering why I spent my time watching largely unlikely characters doing mostly uninspiring activities (which was a tough result to swallow given a cast of Bardem, Cruz and Johansson).
Thankfully with You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, I actually related to some of the characters, largely Naomi Watts and Freida Pinto (who are both beautiful in the film), despite everyone's adulterous behavior. Each actor in the film really shines and is given several beefy scenes a piece to show their amazing acting chops. Watts especially is engrossing in her scenes with deadbeat husband Josh Brolin and her handsome employer Antonio Banderas (who delivers one of his best and nuanced performances in years). And of course, the inclusion of one of my favorite actors of all time, Anthony Hopkins, doesn't hurt. Hopkins is both hilarious and vulnerable as a man who quickly realizes (much as his co-star Brolin does) that pastures are not always greener on the other side after marrying a young prostitute shortly after leaving his long-time wife. Brolin's turn as the annoyingly unsuccessful novelist Roy, is also pitch perfect.
The individual scenes in this film almost play like they were ripped from an acting book with each character's goals and motives laid out clearly (such as the delightfully brutal scene in which Naomi Watts attempts to seduce Banderas, who isn't having it). You can see why all of these actors turned out to play, Allen's sharp wit and eye for what is sexy result in a juicy collection of scenes.
Unfortunately, the same attention paid to crafting strong characters did not carry over into the overall story. While Allen is no stranger to slice-of-life dramedies, I wanted there to be more than just a unified theme connecting the characters and holding together the film. I'm not asking for crazy intricate plotting that would ultimately take away from the character development, but the film seems to lack that certain story element that would allow the film to be remembered in years to come. Or even come next year.
Perhaps one drawback are the visuals, which at least in the print I saw, had a bright yet hazy finish that gives the film an almost storybook-like feel. Maybe handheld camera work and a naturalistic color scheme is not what this movie needed, but as is, it seems more like we are watching the characters through a looking glass than having them staring right at us. There is a certain disconnect, an almost voyeuristic element, missing. What defined some of Allen's best work in the past seems to have been thrown aside in place of more glossy Hollywood-ized visuals. I still think Woody Allen has at least one more great film in him, but unfortunately, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not that film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.