Review: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger DVD

Sony | DIRECTOR: Woody Allen | CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Lucy Punch, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Pauline Collins
RELEASE DATE: 2/15/11 | PRICE: DVD $28.95, Blu-ray $38.96
R | 98 min. | Comedy drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital Surround/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger movie scene

Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin search for something better in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Woody Allen’s 42nd feature film in about as many years, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger finds the writer/director returning to London, the setting for a trio of his works from several years back, the outstanding Match Point (2005), the sweetly diverting Scoop (2006) and the generally unappealing crime drama Cassandra’s Dream (2007). You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger falls squarely in the middle of this bunch in terms of entertainment, intelligence and ideas.

The film follows two pairs of married couples in London — Alfie (Anthony Hopkins, The City of Your Final Destination) and Helena (Gemma Jones, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts, Mother and Child) and her husband Roy (Josh Brolin, True Grit) — as they all attempt to better their lives in some way, be it romantically, financially or even artistically.

For Alfie, this mean leaving his wife of nearly half-a-century, pursuing younger women and ending up with the lively Charmaine (Lucy Punch, Dinner for Schmucks), a call girl who fancies herself an actress. Failing novelist Roy is interested in another woman as well — stunning Dia (Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire), whom he spots in the window across the way — but he’s more hungry for literary success, even if it means stealing a friend’s work. Sally wants to begin a family and as it’s not happening with Roy, she isn’t averse to pursuing that end with her seemingly available boss, a gallery owner (Antonio Banderas, Shrek Forever After). And poor Helena, following the departure of her husband, just wants a better life to make itself know, just as her fortune teller (Pauline Collins, TV’s Bleak House) predicts.

People putting themselves into situations where they can alter their future/fate is not a new subject for Woody (his past three London-based films cover some similar ground), but here the idea is simply not given a plausible treatment. With its gorgeous city setting, striking interiors, attractive cast, hard-to-believe plot developments and collection of morally charged dilemmas that the characters find themselves in (resulting in a some kind of moral lesson learned and/or ignored), Tall Dark Stranger plays out more like a fable than an allegorical, adult story. I’ve never been one to question my own suspension of disbelief when watching a film, but it was just too difficult to buy what was going down with the these characters on Woody’s canvass.

That said, the relatively short movie is not an unpleasant viewing experience, the locales look nice (real estate porn strikes again!) and Woody’s nuanced dialog brings out the best in many of the players, particularly Hopkins (doing a Woody-ish imitation), Brolin and Watts.

There are no extras on the DVD and Blu-ray save a theatrical trailer and an advertisement hawking the film’s jazz-flavored soundtrack.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.