You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Review

(1.5 STARS)

There’s nothing worse than a film that feels like a total waste of time. Even the worst films I’ve seen recently (like Somewhere, from last year) have some redeeming qualities. Woody Allen’s latest, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, is not only pointless, but also the worst Allen film I’ve ever seen. It’s not funny or insightful. Its characters are quite unlikeable. And it ends with nothing resolved. I’ve been thinking hard since seeing the film about what the message might be, and I just can’t fathom what it is. If any of you have seen it and can enlighten me, please…

The film is an ensemble piece which follows a number of unhappy individuals in England. Sally (Naomi Watts) is stuck in a crumbled marriage to writer Roy (Josh Brolin), whose first book was a smashing success but hasn’t had anything remotely successful since. Sally is also saddled with her depressed mother, Helena (Gemma Jones), whose husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), has left her for a hot young prostitute, Charmaine (Lucy Punch). Helena has started seeing a woman with “psychic” powers, which has seemingly turned her life around, but her luck doesn’t transfer well to her loved ones. Alfie goes into debt trying to keep Charmaine happy. Sally longs for her boss (Antonio Banderas), a married man. And Roy flirts with the sexy woman in red across the courtyard (Freida Pinto) while suffering through an excruciating bout of writer’s block.

The only likeable person in this mess is Helena, and her daffiness is almost too much to handle. The things they do are mostly just wrong, and the film ends so suddenly that we don’t get to see many of their stories through to their conclusion. That’s the film’s death blow, really. We suffer through 90 minutes of near-excruciating pointlessness with the expectation that there will be some payoff. But no, Allen decides that this meaningless story should remain just that—meaningless.

The performances range from bland to downright bad. The only standout is Lucy Punch, who is genuinely amusing as the Pretty Woman-like prostitute. Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto, and Antonio Banderas have embarrassingly little to do. Gemma Jones, as I said, plays the film’s only likeable character, but she threatens that likability by taking her character’s goofiness way over the top. Naomi Watts arguably plays the film’s lead character, but by the end of the film, we can’t stand her. Her character’s arc is totally misguided—one of the film’s biggest problems. Brolin, meanwhile, is extremely one-note, and that note isn’t especially pleasant.

Despite being quite short, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger felt insanely long. It takes wrong turn after wrong turn until you pretty much stop caring what it says. I honestly didn’t think Allen had a film this bad in him. His latest films have been something of a mixed bag, ranging from great (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point) to average (Cassandra’s Dream). But nothing he’s done has been awful—until this mess of a film.

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