There's no denying that Woody Allen is one hell of a writer. Like Tarantino, Allen can tell you a story through a single take involving pages of dialogue and manage to be gripping. Such is the case in YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER, which contains the signature Allen characters and themes and treatment.

It's a relationship story, which is both peculiar and witty, similar in form and style with his MIGHTY APHRODITE, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA and even ANNIE HALL. It's an ensemble piece, where the characters' lives intertwine eventually, like Garry Marshall's VALENTINE'S DAY, and his upcoming NEW YEAR'S EVE. However, this work by Allen is far better than the mentioned Garry Marshall films, not to mention that it doesn't humiliate us with a cliche in the face, so that's one of the things we can be thankful for I guess.

I wonder what ever happened to Marshall who directed such gems as RUNAWAY BRIDE and BEACHES.

But going back to Woody Allen, he channels his usual flair for fate, dreams, past lives, and those other things we have no control of, and even pushes our level of tolerance by bringing in a character so obsessed with fortune telling I will forever hate the name "Cristal". As for those who haven't seen the film yet, that would be the conveniently named fortune teller in question, who "helps" Helena (Gemma Jones) go through a painful divorce.

Relationships are messy, and Allen sure acknowledged it quite extensively in his cinema, not excluding this one: husband and wife Roy and Sally (Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts) are a trainwreck waiting to happen, a replica of her parents' fate that was seemingly foreshadowed; the parents are Helena (Jones) and Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) whose marriage has gone kaput because of Alfie's fear of the deep, dark unknown, which is basically old age.  

Roy wallows in self-pity trying to finish his long overdue book. Enter charming Freida Pinto who plays Dia, a mysterious woman in red living adjacent to Roy's building. She instantly becomes Roy's muse, and the novel gets finished in a heartbeat, but it's still shit-or at least that's what the publishing house thought. 

Sally may have began to develop feelings for her boss (Antonio Banderas, who is miscast here) and Alfie weds a foxy "actress" twice her junior named Charmaine Foxx (Lucy Punch); meanwhile, Helena becomes all annoying and aside from all the spiritual interest, she finds comfort in a recently widowed man (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) who owns a bookstore specializing in the occult, and who tries desperately to contact his deceased wife.

So that's the story in a nutshell, and if you've been a close follower of Allen, you'd already have an idea how the film would end. YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER is well-acted, especially by Naomi Watts, and the story often tells us that there are things we cannot foresee and that we have no control of (ha ha, breaking news!) yet what's important is to not rush into judgment, especially out of fear, or rejection, or plain carelessness. 

If there's a constant thing to be admired in Allen's later movies, it's the omniscient narrator that provides an air of lightness to the storytelling.

On the downside, Allen may just have created one of the most irritating characters in cinema in the form of Gemma Jones playing Helena. She just doesn't shut up! I wonder if Josh Brolin's character Roy actually killed her early in the movie like he threatened to do, and have an element of murder included like in MATCH POINT, would the narrative get better? Maybe.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not you'd care for the characters' welfare. I mean the film is insightful and all, but it turns out I'm indifferent. Allen has made better stories.

RATING: 3/5 


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