Release Date: September 22, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Tragedy, Comedy, Romance, Betrayal. Adjectives reserved for the likes of Shakespearian plays; or Woody Allen films. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is reminiscent of older Allen films but maintains a fresh perspective and originality. The story revolves around one family and their trials with each other, as well as with themselves, as they meander through the constantly changing stages that make up life. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) are recently divorced. Alfie is obsessed with reclaiming his youth, constantly reminding anyone who will listen he has “longevity in my genes”. Helena accepts growing older but has become a basket case over the divorce and her future and no pill seems to help. Their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) married poorly, as Helena makes clear time and time again with her perfectly timed digs towards Sally’s husband, Roy (Josh Brolin). Each one of these characters desires something more in life and the film spends its time examining the means to achieving it and the possible bumps that occurs along the way. Helena finds balance by visiting a “seer”. Alfie chooses to marry a very young, with a questionable profession, woman. Sally battles her misgivings with her life, at work and at home, while developing a crush on her employer, Greg (Antonio Banderas). As for Roy, he needs to figure out how to become a successful writer and curb his obsession with the next door neighbor, Dia (Freida Pinto). With a heavy use of voiceover to introduce the characters, as well as keep us informed of their doings throughout the film, the narrative is constantly disrupted so one does not feel they are part of the story but merely outsiders. Connecting with the characters does not occur but it is not needed. You watch their lives unfold, with every twist and turn, each moment of laughter or despair, with a great level of curiosity as it is obvious the decisions they are making cannot possibly lead to a happily ever after moment. Every scene builds perfectly onto the next and regardless of how heavy the subjects being dealt with the jazzy swing-esque music keeps the mood light. Woody Allen has shown, once again, that with comedy comes tragedy and life is full of truths but also self-made illusions.
As with any ensemble casting the parts make up the whole. One bad part can ruin everything. There are no bad parts, or performances, from any of the cast. Hopkins’s Alfie is effortless. His new wife, Charlamaine, is full of robust energy thanks to Lucy Punch who makes playing a gold-digging, somewhat dim, and hilarious (but not on purpose) ex-prostitute appear as the most natural thing in the world. Naomi Watts’ Sally is a jumble of emotions all the time. Keeping up with her see-sawing takes work, but she really shines in her final scene with Banderas’ Greg. Desperate to be desired, and in need of a self esteem boost, she turns to him to provide it. The desperation in her face is remarkable, as well as stripped of any form of wall one may put up to guard their emotions. Absolutely astounding work by Watts’. Then there is Roy. He appears to be the most conflicted and complicated of all the characters but he is really just a selfish scared man who would rather leapt forward into a fantasy then deal with reality. Josh Brolin manages just fine in making us loathe Roy. The look on his face at the end when his future is looking more and more dire, spot on brilliant.
Lastly is the amazing performance by Gemma Jones as Helena. She is certifiably nuts. Her divorce has crushed her and there is no coming back from the damage that has been done. Visiting the seer helps get her back to a level of normal, yet her normal is nowhere near the definition. The wonderful thing about Helena is how she is the dreamer of the bunch. Her motivations are not selfish, but merely demanded in order for her to maintain a pleasurable existence. Helena wants to come to terms with what has happened and look towards the more positive future. She may go about it in an unorthodox way but it works for her and she becomes the one shining ray of hope for a happy ever after out of anyone. Gemma Jones manages to play the ups and downs of Helena’s emotions, throw a line perfectly with biting sarcasm or laced sweetness, masterfully. The role appears to have been written for her strengths as an actress and it shows with every scene she is in. This may be an ensemble piece but without the piece that Gemma brought through her Helena no one would have mattered.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Woody AllenJaume Roures
- Producer(s): Woody Allen
- Screenwriter(s): Anthony Hopkins (Alfie)Gemma Jones (Helena)Naomi Watts (Sally)
- Story: Josh Brolin (Roy)
- Cast: Freida Pinto (Dia)Antonio Banderas (Greg)Lucy Punch (Charmaine) Alisa LepselterVilmos Zsigmond
- Editor(s): Jim Clay
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA