You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 25, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Woody Allen returns with a karma-esque romantic comedy with an all-star cast that is entertaining, romantic and delightful.
Images courtesy of © 2010 Mediaproduccion S.L., Versatil Cinema S.L. and Gravier Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010
DURATION: 99 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English, French LCR DTS-HD MA (Discrete Surround), Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (Some Violence)
RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2011
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum
Co-Producer: Nicky Kentish Barnes
Co-Executive Producer: Jack Rollins
Associate Producer: Mercedes Gamero
Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Alisa Lepselter
Casting by Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, Gail Stevens, Juliet Taylor
Production Design by Jim Clay
Art Direction by Dominic Masters
Set Decoration by John Bush
Costume Design by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor
Gemma Jones as Helena Shebritch
Pauline Collins as Cristal
Anthony Hopkins as Alfie Shebritch
Naomi Watts as Sally Channing
Josh Brolin as Roy Channing
Freida Pinto as Dia
Antonio Banderas as Greg
Lucy Punch as Charmaine
Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Jonathan
Narrated by Zak Orth
Neil Jackson as Alan
Two couples discover the grass may not always be greener on the other side in Woody Allen’s breezy comedy on wry, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Hoping to relive the pleasures of youth, Alfie Shepridge (Anthony Hopkins) dumps his wife of 40 years (Gemma Jones) and pursues a young call girl (Lucy Punch). So when daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) develops a crush on her boss (Antonio Banderas) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin) becomes obsessed with the beauty (Freida Pinto) who lives across the way, the entire clan’s fantasies take on reality as their passions not only drive them out of their marriages, but out of their minds as well.
With a Woody Allen film, I always come with an expectation of an enjoyable time. A few films have been misses but for the majority of Woody Allen’s oeuvre, they have been its, not all masterpieces but still, with a filmmaking career that has spanned over 50 years, even now, you can’t help but enjoy a Woody Allen romantic comedy.
Which brings us to his latest film “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger”, a film that literally is split amongst film critics. Some who feel that the 75-year-old Woody Allen can never match his style of filmmaking during his peak and others who feel that he is able to create enjoyable films.
In “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, I look at this film as a story of karma biting one back in the rear.
The film revolves around the Shebritch family and everything is coming undone. Both Helena (played by Gemma Jones) and Alfie (played by Anthony Hopkins) are ending their long marriage as Helena has become more and more opinionated and blunt about her husband especially during their older years and for Alfie, he wants to retain that youth, so he works out and wants to be look good.
Unfortunately, because of their differing opinions later in their life, the two often clash and sure enough Alfie leaves his Helena.
Helena is so much in a mess that she has been seeing a psychiatrist and wants to put her on medication. But for now, all Helena can go to for comfort is her daughter Sally Channing (played by Naomi Watts).
Sally is married to Roy (played by Josh Brolin), a writer who has had two bestselling books but is unable to come up with another. The Channing’s are barely able to survive and pay their rent and bills and Sally is becoming disenchanted with their marriage and overall progression of their livelihood. She wants her marriage to progress and Roy to get a job and Roy tries. But because he writes at night, a day job has become difficult and when he had a job as a chauffeur, he was tired and got into an accident and lost his job.
But Sally is trying to be as supportive of her husband as best as she can and hopes that his latest book will get approved by the publisher and not depend on her mother (who is paying their rent).
As for Roy, he knows that life is not going so well for him but the only happiness he has found in his life was each time he looks out the window, he sees a woman across the building, playing the guitar and just finds her alluring. And the two eventually start communication from their window. Roy immediately becomes a voyeur and looks forward to each time he can watch the woman from the other building.
Meanwhile, Alfie has changed his life since leaving Helena. He has gotten a tan, living in a posh apartment and has been hanging out with his young employees to find a young woman to be with. Eventually, he manages to get hooked up with a prostitute named Charmaine (played by Lucy Punch) and despite his pursuit of youth, Alan is traditional in his beliefs that if you have a romantic fling, you want to marry the woman and thus he becomes engaged to Charmaine.
Needless to say, this shocks Helen and she keeps visiting her daughter which angers Roy because Helen is very opinionated on everything. In order to feel stability, Sally has helped her mother find someone to go for counseling, a fortune telling guru named Cristal (played by Pauline Collins). Sally and Roy knows she is a fake but if it keeps Helen at ease (and not have her spend much money), then they will support her.
So, as Helen tries to figure out her life through Cristal, Alfie now with a younger woman (who loves to spend money), Sally feeling not so loved in her marriage, goes to take a job with an art gallery owned by Greg (played by Antonio Banderas) and as for Roy, he initiates contact with Dia (played by Freida Pinto), the woman he has been watching across the street.
For Sally, working with Greg has exposed her to a lifestyle that she wants and finds herself falling for Greg but he is married and she is married. As for Roy, he finds himself falling for Dia, but he is married and she is getting married.
How will life eventually play out for these individuals?
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). As usual with Woody Allen films, he tries to bring out the city he films in. In this case, London. Collaborating once again with his cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”, “The Witches of Eastwick”), who worked with Allen in his last London-based film “Cassandra’s Dream” (2007).
While the film does provide some parts of London and possibly one awesome shot in the rain when Roy gets to meet Dia, most of the film is shot indoors especially inside Sally and Roy’s apartment. For the most part, the lighting is good and picture quality definitely shows a vibrancy at times, especially when focusing on Dia’s red dress. Skin tones are good and you can see Roy’s shaggy hair (Probably one of the worst hair styles in the film for Josh Brolin) to a tired and disheveled Sally (Watts).
But overall, the picture quality is very good, colors range from natural to vibrant, black levels are nice and deep and I saw no hint of artifacting or banding.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is presented in English and French LCR DTS-HD MA. The film is pretty much a dialogue and music-driven film. Most of the scenes are with two people talking and there may be scenes with crowds (like at a bar) but for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven film and most of the sound is coming through the front and center channels. There was one scene with heavy rain but I was expecting a more immersive sound at that point but I didn’t really hear it coming from the surround channels. So, for the most part, dialogue is clean and understandable as with its jazzy music (which works for this film and a style that Woody Allen is known for), the lossless soundtrack is good but don’t expect anything immersive.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH and French.
It is well-known that Woody Allen is not fond of special features and no matter what release you watch of his, the most you’re going to get from a Woody Alley DVD or Blu-ray is a theatrical trailer. And the theatrical trailer of “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” (1:36) is included.
When Woody Allen created “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, his reasoning to create the film was because of his interest in the concept of “faith in something”. Those who successfully delude themselves seem happier than those who can’t.
What I got out of this film were two things. One, the power of faith and believing something positive and the other is “karma” and how it can come back to get you.
For a Woody Allen film, at first glance, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is quite interesting in how Allen is able to take a normal family and easily throw believable things that can literally destroy it. In the case of this family, Helena is the matriarch but she is so opinionated and blunt that it upsets those around her. She can’t stop, its her nature to say how she feels. While she seems like it’s right, others don’t feel that same way. And thus karma gets her in which her husband leaves her and alienates her family.
But where Helena manages to redeem herself is finding faith, even though the person she believes in, may not be genuine (ala fortune teller), she’s happy and the changes she makes in her life leads to happiness.
On the other hand, for Alfie, it’s one thing to not like getting badgered by your wife but leaving her to pursue a young woman (a prostitute) and try to live young and live a luxurious lifestyle which he shouldn’t have done. You don’t know how much you miss someone until their gone and in Alfie’s case, he finds himself in a situation where he goes for a very sexual woman that attracts men and the fact that he is older, he realizes that her lifestyle and how she is…it’s too much for him and will probably lead him to a quick death because now he constantly worries about her promiscuity and how much of his money she spends.
And for the daughter Sally, she wants a better life as her once famous novelist of a husband doesn’t make money nor can he hold a job. She wants to grow in her relationship but its not happening. While most audiences probably may feel sympathetic to her character, the problem is that she is the person that helped egg her mother on to going to a fortune teller in order to make her happy and while it’s a success, it ultimately becomes the major force in hurting Sally.
As for Sally’s husband Roy, the problem lies in the fact that he starts becoming a voyeur and falls for the woman across the street, gets closer to her and prevents her from finding happiness with another man she is to marry and does the unthinkable by stealing a dead man’s novel and gets it published. Unfortunately, karma will end up biting him in the rear as well.
And the film comes full circle with the fact that Helena does find happiness thanks to her newfound faith in a crooked fortune teller.
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” was definitely a delightful film that has enough of Woody Allen’s humor to make it enjoyable. But I can see why some people watching this film may feel it was a bit of a drag. Because really, it’s not a film about happy endings, happy marriages and such. It is a movie about a dysfunctional family and how it begins to impact those into making impulsive decisions. There is no fighting for the marriage, there is no counseling, these characters think they found their way out by finding love elsewhere.
Gemma Jones does a wonderful job of portraying Helena as a neurotic and paranoid woman. Anthony Hopkins plays an older man finding a second wave of youthfulness. Naomi Watts does a great job of playing the wife who wants more and Josh Brolin as the husband and voyeur. Everyone in this film manages to play their role quite well and Lucy Punch was a much better choice in playing Charmaine and there is just no way I can see Nicole Kidman, who was originally supposed to play Charmaine, in that role. And Freida Pinto brought a more elegant side to the film as she is the total opposite of Sally.
Overall, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” may not be a Woody Allen classic and I know many film critics feel that he’s just churning out movies that do not reach the levels of the types of films he once created. But I do believe that every filmmaker goes through various life differences, adjustments in life and as much as some would like original Woody Allen ala 1970’s, it’s surely not going to happen.
So, far I have managed to enjoy a lot of Allen’s later films and while they may not have the resonance of “Manhattan”, “Sleeper” or “Annie Hall”, they are still quite enjoyable and fun.
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” was delightful!
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