What could be a more appropriate first entry for such a blog on socio-cultural ramblings than a post related to one of my favourite film artists.
His most recent film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, is certainly a typical Woody Allen. Yet, at the same time, it is not worthy of standing out as such a representative work. YWMaTDS has it all -to a certain degree at least- and, still -or thus-, nothing new. The episodic structure of the multifocal story; the urban, deeply neurotic upper class-characters in quest of romantic, sexual or artistic fulfillment; the poignant and sharp dialogues (although you can observe a certain decrease on this here)- Woody Allen delivers the whole package, and adds nothing new. There is nothing in this film- neither on the narrative nor on the technical level- that might "bite“ you, that might annoy or disturb or confuse you.
The pivotal character of the story is Helena (Gemma Jones) who suffers after having been left by her long-time-husband Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and seeks advice and consolation in a fortune-teller. Meanwhile, Alfie wants to revive his youth and believes finding the occasion to do so in Charmaine (Lucy Punch), a clichéd, rather featherbrained prostitute. The story also revolves around Helena and Alfie’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her husband Roy (Josh Brolin), who lead a rather unhappy marriage and who soon develop serious crushes on people from their environment (Antonio Banderas, as Sally’s boss, & Freida Pinto, as a new neighbour).
Just by reading this quick summary, one realises that the film’s story is rather uninspired. And while Woody Allen is definitely not best-known for having overly original storylines, he still usually manages to grow some precious things on such little promising grounds. And for sure, YWMaTDS has got such grandiose moments as well, but they are few.
The characters- as usual the bearing walls of his works- are written with a lot of routine and some wittiness and demonstrate a certain psychological depth as well. Still, we are miles away here from the dazzling profundity of Annie Hall or Hannah (and her sisters). Some characters like the one of Charmaine- a character that is meant to entertain and make laugh (and certainly succeeds in doing so), but without any depth at all- are very disappointing, especially if you consider that Woody Allen has already written much brighter roles for prostitute characters (e.g. Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite or Dianne Wiest in The Purple Rose of Cairo). Unlike some of its immediate predecessors, such as Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Whatever Works this film significantly lacks a charismatic character. Despite the good acting performances (above all by Josh Brolin and Gemma Jones), none of the actors is able to really profile and shape their character. It is obvious that this is, to a major extent, due to the restrictions that come along with the aforementioned multifocal structure.
YWMaTDS is 98 minutes of sterling entertainment. At one central point of the film Helena mentions that she believes in reincarnation. As a loyal Woody Allen-filmgoer, you tend to fully comprehend her feelings. The storyline, the characters, the plot, the dialogues, the narrative structure- everything seems familiar, as if you had already experienced it like 40 times before. It goes without saying that this is, at least in Woody Allen’s case, not necessarily something negative.