Since I’m getting towards the end of A Woody A Week I’m watching films I have only seen once before, and fairly recently too. I have to admit I wasn’t in a mad rush to see You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger so soon again.
We’re back in London for this film, in a now well and truly standard story of two generations of couples having problems and trying to find a better life. Josh Brolin plays the one-hit-wonder writer struggling to finish his second book and Naomi Watts plays his wife who wants to run her own gallery. Her parents are divorced, with her mother (Gemma Jones) turning to a spiritulist for help and her father (Anthony Hopkins) turning to viagra, sports cars and a prostitute for a new bride.
Of course, there are other minor complications. Brolin is infatuated with a woman who plays classical guitar across the street, and Watts is infatuated with her suave boss, played by Antonio Banderas. It probably speaks to how stock standard these characters are by now that I can’t remember any of their names. Come to think of it, wasn’t Interiors about a couple of struggling artists with a divorced father who takes up with a vivacious new wife?
This film is much lighter in tone however. It has a voice-over, similar to Vicky Christina Barcelona, but again, much less serious. In fact overall the tone is amusing, but not all that funny. It begins pleasantly with some sharp vignettes which economically introduce each character, however it soon sags and never really picks up steam. Without a dynamic character or stunning plot-twists to enliven proceedings, it merely creeps along with no-one in the ensemble keeping your attention. For me the most interesting character is the one played by Naomi Watts – anxious, out of luck and not very sympathetic, which is more like a typical male Woody Allen character.
But as a fan (and maybe only as a fan) it does hold a little extra interest. Some of the making of this film is featured on Bob Weide’s excellent Woody Allen: A Documentary, so watching this film puts those scenes in context. And Vilmos Zsigmond’s elegantly floating camera is especially good in the ensemble scenes. But what is the film about? Trying to find something more to life? Putting your faith in everything but yourself?
Maybe it’s, as the film’s narrator declares about life, a film “full of sound of fury signifying nothing”. Although without too much sound or fury. It’s far more genteel, but ultimately, disposable. With a return to familiar jazz on the soundtrack, well-worn plots and familiar characters, it seems like Woody is signifying nothing too, apart from of course the inevitability of death as neatly summed up in the double-meaning title. But in the grand scheme of this blog, while the comedy Whatever Works tries and fails, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger doesn’t even seem to try.
Next week: Midnight in Paris