Starring: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Frieda Pinto, Gemma Jones, Lucy Punch, Christian McKay, Anna Friel
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond
Original Score: Misc.
Running Time: 98 Mins.
So here we are again, Woody Allen continues to try to do two things, firstly crack London and give us a good representation of life and love in our British capital and perhaps more importantly for fans of the film-maker (and cinema in general) to actually make another really great film. End of. He has teetered on the edge of something a little more modern and set away from Manhattan in a good way with Vicky Cristina Barcelona though even that was plighted with two awful, and too hard to overlook, glaring mis-steps in the form of one of the worst voice-overs ever and also the preoccupation with pretentiousness over humanity in his characters, something that proved too stifling for many to overcome.
Sadly You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger shares that films problems with the opening voice-over seemingly trying to emulate Vicky Cristina Barcelona as a London-set companion piece that also deals with the tangled mess of a star names love lives. Broadening the themes though sees the older cast members (Hopkins and Jones) take as much screen time as their younger counterparts, into this melting pot come issues of mortality, parentage, adultery, obsession and deception, ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big problem given the Love Actually style structure but with nary a likeable person in sight it weighs round the film like an anchor.
Every person is drawn so broadly they are as much archetypal stereotypes as the city is itself, the black cabs, memorable buildings, cockney accents and quaint bookshops on side-streets are all present and correct which in something like the previously mentioned Love Actually were not a problem given that film intended itself to be that way, but when it comes to You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger one can’t help but ponder what it was Allen wanted to show by setting his film in London, the capital adds nothing to the story and visually it is uninspired at best and flat at worst with nothing in the way of flair or beauty. In all fairness visuals were never the director’s penchant, that lay in his once crackling, witty and often brilliant scripting and stories that delved under the skin of his characters.
It just seems that lately the older Allen gets the slacker his writing becomes and in stuffing his films with star names he is trying to mask the fading talents that were once in evidence. I don’t like to slate a film that unashamedly deals with character over plot but solely dealing with character in a pointless interweaving plot adds next to nothing to the overall experience, and when your characters are written with little sign of effort there is little to be done other than be critical. On the plus side (I’m scraping the barrel here) Hopkins and Punch are funny sporadically in a handful of slapstick scenes but this is far from a saviour and simply serves to help edge your way through an excruciatingly dull 98 minutes.
As Woody Allen’s name, and the mark of quality that once accompanied it, slips further into the annals of cinema you can test your patience with his latest effort, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, and marvel and how many dull and lifeless stereotypes can be crammed into one script whilst pondering why it drew such a starry cast.