You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 14th April 2013
Years ago, when Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code became the best of sellers, his publishers cannily re-released an earlier work that had failed to ignite – and lo, Angels and Demons also became a hit.
I can only speculate, but given that Woody Allen’s “latest” movie isn’t actually his latest and has been knocking about since 2010 without a release, it feels awfully like the success of Midnight in Paris is being used to entice those of us who still remember that until Owen Wilson stepped into that taxi, Woody Allen’s particular brand of interweaving, adulterous whimsy had gone a bit stale.
Well, I’m afraid Paris this ain’t.
It’s a London tale again, and the unironic American voiceover introduces us to a highly-strung Gemma Jones (Bridget Jones’ mum) whose husband (a pastel-sweatered Anthony Hopkins) has left her for a floozy, and thus vulnerable to the reassuring fakery of Pauline Collins’ spiritual advisor.
While the older parents behave badly, daughter Sally (Naomi Watts, taking this as seriously as she does every role) is frustrated in her marriage to a failing writer (Josh Brolin, terrific despite the script he is being force-fed) and is contemplating getting cosy with her boss, played by Antonio Banderas.
Sorry for the long cast list, but you can see this is a typical Allen movie studded with stars (all of whom acquit themselves well enough, even if the action gets a little tedious). Other Allen tropes include the omnipresent theme of adultery and undeserving people being put ever-so-slightly through the moral wringer before being let free to pursue their undeserved passions.
It’s naturally a little stagey, with over-obvious dialogue like “Don’t have a crush on your boss – that way lies disaster”, and the caricatured performances lend a theatricality to the proceedings.
That said, despite its structural and dramatic flaws, the characters are still diverting enough that you want to stick around to see what happens to them. There is enormous energy in the choreography of long, one-take scenes, and overall, despite its being about rotten people doing rotten things, Woody’s charm still manages to inveigle you.