Saturday, October 23, 2010

Movie with Abe: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Directed by Woody Allen
Released September 22, 2010

Wonder why you might not have heard about the new film from Woody Allen? Consider it a blessing. While most agree that the earlier works of Allen, such as “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” are much better than the recent work he’s been churning out – with the possible exception of “Match Point” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” efforts such as “Scoop” and “Whatever Works” have been weak but not entirely worthless. His rather vaguely and obnoxiously titled new film bears some similarity in plot but little in structure and coherence to any of his previous films, even the newer ones.

While it’s fair to call most of Allen’s films ensemble pictures, there is usually at least one or two clear leading characters. That’s not entirely necessary to his film or any film, but it does help. The primary family unit in “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” includes an aging father who has fallen in love with and gotten engaged to a prostitute, a mess of a mother seeing comfort in a fortune teller, a daughter with a crush on her dark, tall boss, and a son-in-law with a medical degree, no talent for his chosen field of writing, and a major obsession with his attractive neighbor bathed in red across the way. There is no defined lead character, and every one of those plotlines lacks the requisite pizzazz to effectively steer, let alone carry, the film.

One trademark of Allen, arguably good or bad, is his use of the same actors over and over in his films. It used to be Mia Farrow and Dianne Wiest, and more recently, it has been Scarlett Johanssen. “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is full of Allen virgins, and while thinking outside of the box and trying new things should never be discouraged, the results here are not positive. All of the actors speak pretty much in their native accents, most notably Australian Naomi Watts and Brit Anna Friel (“Pushing Daisies”) and Indian Frieda Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”), and the dialogue just doesn’t come alive (not that it’s a clever script either). Thespians like Watts and Anthony Hopkins have proved themselves before and are displaying none of their talents, Antonio Banderas is miscast, Josh Brolin would be better off without any lines, and Pinto’s pale performance suggest that perhaps her big debut was merely a one-hit wonder.

Overall, the cast isn’t necessarily to blame. How much more can Allen say about infidelity and relationships? He has told a variation of the same story over and over again, and at a certain point there’s nothing left to explore or dramatize. The wells haven’t gone completely dry, but Allen needs to take a fresh approach that doesn’t simply involve transplanting his characters to a new city where they have exotic accents. Like a few of the more optimistically-inclined personalities in “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” Allen needs to get a fresh start, and start digging and crafting something in entirely new territory.



Richter Scale said...

Abe, I hate to be the one always doing this, but I spotted a couple of mistakes. For one, Naomi Watts is Australian, not a Brit (I see where the confusion lies there) and you have Anna Friel's name down twice (the second time I'm pretty sure you meant Freida Pinto, as you said the Indian Anna Friel). I know you're probably sick of me pointing it out, I just noticed this.

Otherwise, I haven't seen the film and nothing I've heard about it has convinced me to see it, except that I love Woody Allen. I was thinking about seeing it, but opted instead for catching The Purple Rose of Cairo at the Jerusalem Cinamteque (my favorite Woody Allen movie). It was an older print, with French and Hebrew subtitles, but it was a lot of fun. If you haven't seen that one, give it a look. I think you'll enjoy it immensely. Pretty thoughtful review!

Movies with Abe said...

No, I do appreciate the corrections! Obviously they're accidental errors, and it's good that you're reading closely. I produce a very large volume of posts and I'm bound to make mistakes, but I still try to keep the number as low as possible! Also, I have met Naomi Watts, and therefore the error about her nationality is all the more embarrassing (though the point is still the same, because she usually plays an American).

As it happens, I have yet to see The Purple Rise of Cairo, and I will get to it at some point, especially considering your positive recommendation! As always, thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment!