By Gary Buiso
Nihilism is rendered into a detached and only occasionally humorous tale that is Woody Allen’s latest, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”
Set in London, the film follows two couples at varying stages of marital and ontological collapse — fertile comedic territory that Allen has made a brilliant career out of farming.
Helena’s (Gemma Jones) husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), faces his own mortality and doesn’t like what he sees. Who does? Alfie leaves his devoted bride to explore his options, namely, a call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch). Helena naturally seeks counsel and consolation from a psychic.
Meanwhile, things are going south for Helena’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her son-in-law Roy (Josh Brolin). Roy was a one-hit wonder who can’t manage to support the family, and instead spends much of his time peeping his sexy neighbor, Dia (Freida Pinto). Watts is no innocent, crushing hard for her also unhappily married boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas).
The characters have a lot to say, but still seem thinly crafted and joyless. Punch and Jones standout, as does Hopkins, who mingles hope with sad desperation.
To be sure, the film shows signs of the “old” Allen — a Midwood-born gag writer who is not as smart as people think he is. A mix-up has left Roy praying his writer-friend won’t recover from a coma; It seems Helena’s new beau ditches her for another woman — who happens to be dead.
Thematically, the film is reminiscent of an old Allen quote: “Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.”
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is certainly not horrible, nor is it miserable. It just could gave been better.
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.” Rated R for language. 98 minutes. With Gemma Jones, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Josh Brolin and Pauline Collins. Opening in Brooklyn this friday at Cobble Hill Cinemas.