Sunday, October 24, 2010

Movie Review: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger


Woody Allen's new movie "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" provides a much-needed respite to culture shocked movie goers trying their best to acclimate to the ever-changing social troposphere. In Woody's movie our over-strained nerves taste the smooth wine like richness of retrograded filmology where we enjoy the subtle background music and nod our heads to the character developments in the plot and say, "There, there…I believe you've got it." If you feel that films should be — vintage, old-timey, and pleasant, this icebox of shifting morals is sure to be your joy ride. What amazes me is that this cinema being so different from the snazzy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" or the plump-plotted "Match Point" portrays Woody's creative abilities in the same no-nonsense level. Stripped off of much of the flamboyance and glamour of the last Woody Allen blockbuster, the new movie shows a side of Woody we haven’t much appreciated in the past—a calmer Woody with calmer judgment and nerves.

The story, which is no space-age unique, thrives in skillful character sketching brought to life by the amazing artistry of the pivotal actors cast in this creation. The narrative begins with Helena (Gemma Jones), a lovelorn heroine recently separated from her husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) an old-youth who leaves her and marries a promiscuous deity turned stay-at-home pleasure packet, Charmaine (Lucy Punch), goes to a fortune-teller to know the possibilities of her future. Helena is an over-strained lump of emotion that thrives on self-blaming and has once tried to end it all. The clairvoyance of the prognostic, however, sees a roseate future for Helena along with a fair chance of meeting an interesting stranger. Meanwhile, Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) has her own battles to fight. Stuck in a frustrated marital bond with a slugabed writer of a husband, Sally feels incarcerated in her cluttered apartment, neck-deep in books and her husband's failed raconteuring attempts, and flirts with her art-gallery owner boss Greg (Antonio Banderas). Sally's husband, Roy (Josh Brolin), a cabby and an ex-medical student, sees himself more as a writer than a man of the world. Although after his one finished piece of art—a novel that has been his sole name-work till now, he has failed considerably in his attempts to weave up a story, he is hopeful with his latest fictional creation. He feels divinely linked with his muse — an esoteric creature in red, a lady who is the sum-total of all the perfection in humankind — now more than ever. This woman, a musical goddess called Dia (Frieda Pinto), gives Roy all the hope of a bright future and Roy caves in by divorcing his wife and deciding to marry her. Sally, on the other hand, sees her love life stuck in a dead zone when she discovers her suave superior having an affair with her friend. The story is stretched and the characters and sent to their extremes: Alfie finds out that a fallen woman is too hard to pet; Helena fights for love with a deceased competitor; Roy's new novel is rejected and he steals the lifework of his friend who has had an accident and is now in coma; Sully wants to start a new life but finds the renaissance a tad too hard on the pocket. As the plot reaches its crescendo, we see the ultimate truth of existence coming to life: despite our best efforts, all our life's establishments do not always bear fruit.

Close your critical eyes and dig in for the drama is my advice to you if you decide to head to the theater to scoop up this woody dish. Certain obviousness and loose ends might hit you in the face, yet you digest it all and try to get to the core. At certain points the plot appears too deliberate for even the charming Gemma Jones to pull it through. But love it or loathe it, it is the weary pointlessness of the whole creation that strikes an unusual chord in the illusion-inflicted flicker.

Like several of Woody Allen classics and failed attempts, we find in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" the common Woody ingredients: a frustrated writer looking for a big break, ample promiscuity, loose morals, and a twist ending. In fact, this movie, like the others, has the same pale-eyed cynical outlook on life, although blanketed for easy swallowing. The exquisite playfulness of the theme gives the movie an unusual vim; however, you can't help feeling somewhat disappointed with the whole effort. Woody has masterfully strewn the bits, added variation, piquant moments, yet the overall dish is not as grand as you had expected it to be; especially after the rather Brobdingnagian success of his last effort. You feel the stellar cast is thoroughly wasted in this blunt drama. The movie seems such an anachronism in the 3D-flick enriched market, and that explains why our theater didn’t even have its name posted among the featured movies of the week. I cannot say if it is Helena's unshakable faith or the sheer emptiness and mortality envisaged in the scheme that got me through with it, but in the end I did come out of the theater feeling victorious gloating, once more, over Uncle Woody's comic appraisal of human life.