Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger


(NEW REVIEW) There is one thing in common in almost all Woody Allen’s films, all his characters, and that is money. The people in his movies have it. They seldom sweat the mortgage or how they’re going to feed the children or keep their low-paying job. Some of them are wealthy, but most inhabit that hard-to-define zone between wealthy and middle-class. Upper middle? Lower upper? On-the-way-upper? Not yuppie, because many if not most are not really young. But their problems are internal. Relationships. Existential angst. The search for one’s self. They may get themselves into fixes, many of which can’t be remedied by money, but mostly they talk. They are educated, smart, artistic. Virtually all of them are college graduates. And they talk. And talk.

The good news is that their talk is usually interesting. Quentin Tarantino is the master of “street” dialogue, and so is Woody, but it’s a different street. Like, Park Avenue. And please don’t think I’m complaining. I usually find his films entertaining and insightful … though sometimes it’s the same old insight. God knows we need a respite from time to time from the endless, pointless action most films have deteriorated into these days, and Woody is the most reliable refuge.

Here is something a bit different. Money is a problem for many of the people here. We have three couples and a single guy (Antonio Banderas). There is Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones, who have broken up before the movie starts. Tony is rich and restless, and wants to re-invent himself. Gemma is devastated, and seeks solace in the bullshit provided by a stinking “psychic.” He spends lavishly on a sports car and a trendy bachelor pad, and buys himself a high-class whore (Lucy Punch), though he convinces himself he’s in love with her.

Then we have Naomi Watts, Gemma’s daughter, who is trying to make ends meet working in an art gallery for Antonio, while her husband, Josh Brolin, a writer who had one “promising” book years ago struggles to complete his fourth novel. The only thing keeping them from the streets is Mom’s money.

Lastly, there is a woman who lives across the way from them (Freida Pinto, who was so good in Slumdog Millionaire), a guitarist who is engaged to a man we hardly see at all.

Then … shit happens. Josh becomes infatuated with Freida, and she eventually with him, and that breaks up her impending marriage. Anthony lets the hooker spend all his money, and then finds out she has been cheating on him. Naomi practically throws herself at Antonio, only to be rebuffed. Then Mom reneges on a promise of a loan to help Naomi start her own gallery, because “the stars are not right.” Which she has every right to do, of course, but I still wanted to kill her. Mom is an unconscious monster who is totally self-centered, oblivious to the problems of everyone around her. I am deeply prejudiced here. I hate fucking “psychics,” and I have very little patience for those who are taken in by their fraudulent, ignorant, damaging prattle.

But the biggest problem is Josh’s situation. His novel is rejected. He knows a man who has written a novel, and he has read it. He is the only one who has read it, and there are no other copies. And it’s good. And then the author is in a car crash and killed, and another man who was with him is in a coma. Well, jeez, it’s fate, isn’t it? He takes the novel to a publisher, and they’re wild about it. It’s all set to go … but the first novelist is not as dead as Josh thought he was. There was a mix-up, and he’s not dead at all, it was the other guy who died. He’s just in a coma, and the outlook is not all that bad. In fact, he’s expected to come out of it one of these days, soon …

It’s not giving anything away to say that we never see how that comes out. In fact, the only situation that seems resolved is Mom’s, of course. She meets no tall, dark stranger, but she does meet a short, fat, bald, stupid true believer in the occult, and they look like they will live happily ever after. I won’t say any of the others—particularly Josh—deserve a better outcome, but it just tore me up that the silly bitch is in a bed of roses. But that’s fine with me. I enjoyed the movie immensely, because it continued to surprise me, which is worth a lot.