You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is a tale of love, lust and longing set in London. In quick succession, writer-director Woody Allen introduces us to an array of characters who are all caught in their individual hells.
So Josh Brolin, wearing a strange thatch of hair plays Roy, a novelist whose career is nowhere as shining as he had imagined it would be. His mother-in-law helps to pay the household bills and at one point, he works as a chauffer.Naomi Watts is his harried wife Sally, who has a crush on her smoldering boss Greg, played by Antonio Banderas. Meanwhile Sally?s parents have split up after 40 years.
Her father Alfie, played by Anthony Hopkins, suffered a late-life crisis, dumped his wife, bought a sports car and married a young bimbette. Her mother Helena, played by Gemma Jones, is finding solace in alcohol and a fortune-teller. Adding further complications, is the girl-next-door Dia, played by Freida Pinto, who becomes the object of Roy?s desires.
As these lives spin and swirl out of control, an unseen narrator, Zak Orth, brings us up to speed with the various intrigues. He begins the story by quoting Shakespeare: life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing and then Allen proceeds to illustrate precisely this. Like an expert puppet master, he elegantly maneuvers his many characters. Some of this is witty and engaging but most of it feels sour and curdled like old milk. Allen has very little affection for his characters and happily strips them of all dignity.
So Alfie must make his luscious new wife wait because his Viagra hasn?t kicked in yet and Sally?s personal and professional desires are ruthlessly crushed. Each one fumbles and finds only emptiness. The only one somewhat happy at the end is Helena, who by then has been called a lunatic imbecile by her daughter, and is embarking on an affair with a balding man who runs an occult bookstore and believes that Helena might have been Joan of Arc in another life.
The film is bleak but what was more problematic for me is that it has little generosity or grace. When it was over, I wasn?t sure what I had gained from spending time with these joyless men and women.
In the midst of the sound and fury, Dia appears as the sublime muse. Pinto is mostly required to look lovely and that she does exceedingly well. But despite her luminous looks and the impressive roster of actors in the film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger remains the minor work of a major director. See it if you must.