EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (director/writer: Woody Allen; cinematographer: Vilmos Zsigmond;; editor: Alisa Lepselter; cast: Antonio Banderas (Greg), Josh Brolin (Roy), Anthony Hopkins (Alfie), Gemma Jones (Helena), Freida Pinto (Dia), Lucy Punch (Charmaine), Naomi Watts (Sally), Pauline Collins (Cristal), Ewen Bremner (Henry Strangler), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Jonathan, occult bookstore owner), Anna Friel (Iris), Zak Orth (narrator); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating:R; producers: Letty Aronson/Stephen Tenenbaum/Jaume Roures; Sony Pictures Classics; 2010)|
slight pic benefits greatly from the talented ensemble cast that makes
more of the tiresome dialogue than can be expected."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Woody Allen ("Match Point/"Cassandra's Dream"/"Whatever
writes and directs this
whimsical tale about the flaws in people and how illusion serves as the
best medicine but also can make fools of us. The lighthearted and
emotional-free comedy/drama is a soap opera story with Allen's usual
arty pretensions, his keen ear for comedy, and his in-your-face mock
sympathy for an unpleasant struggling author looking to find his muse.
There are also various romantic entanglements that are led on by
passion and ambition, flawed characters with wandering eyes, foolish
older men chasing after much younger women and Woody's philosophical
belief that everything is pointless. The slight pic benefits greatly
from the talented ensemble cast that makes more of the tiresome
dialogue than can be expected. Woody this time takes his show to
London, which is his fourth film set there.
It opens with Shakespeare’s quote from Macbeth about life being “a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and
fury, signifying nothing.” A narrator (Zak
Orth) acts as the film's tour
Helena (Gemma Jones) is an elderly woman who
attempted suicide when her wealthy businessman hubby Alfie (Anthony
Hopkins) left her after forty years of marriage to search for his lost
youth, but is now helped by a fake fortune teller named Cristal (Pauline Collins) who gives her hope by telling her what
she wants to hear. Losing all sense of reality, Helena makes all her
life decisions based on the fortune teller's predictions The
matriarch's bitchy daughter Sally (Naomi Watts), an art gallery worker and aspiring art dealer,
is in a rocky marriage
with the cynical American writer Roy (Josh Brolin), who has a medical degree but
never practiced medicine. Roy's first book had moderate success, but
his last two novels bombed and is anxiously waiting to hear from his
publisher about his latest manuscript--which
seems to mean everything to him, as he worries that his life will be
worthless if his book is not accepted. The argumentative couple only make ends
meet with the financial help of Sally's daffy mom.
Alfie loses all sense of
reason and marries after a short courtship a greedy bimbo call girl named Charmaine (Lucy
who is half his age and has nothing in common with him except in the
bedroom. Meanwhile Sally fails to act on a crush she has on her boss,
the married suave art gallery owner boss, Greg
(Banderas), who ends up leaving his wife for Sally's artist girlfriend
Iris (Anna Friel). While Sally drifts apart from Roy, he becomes
enamored watching from his window the mysterious beautiful Dia (Freida
Pinto) play the classical guitar and undress. Her apartment is across
his courtyard and faces the window in his workroom. Roy will eventually
get the sweet girl (someone we never learn much about) to break off her
marriage plans with her fiance, which greatly upsets his family in how
this harsh rejection came when the wedding was already set.
All Woody can say about those cheating, which is almost everyone, is that it's all pointless. Woody tells us life is just as comical, cruel, despairing, superficial and neurotic as one of his films. If you don't believe that, catch all the Allen films from his top-notch ones to his bad ones to his so-so ones-- like this one, and you'll see the auteur has been consistent in his bankrupt nihilist message. If you expected something Shakespearean, all I can say is that you must have been misled by all the arty pretenses.
REVIEWED ON 10/19/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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