You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
I was stuck viewing the film-making equivalent of ghostwriting, an embodiment of the on-screen celebrity product endorsement directing where instead of hawking Foreman grills, Woody Allen instead stickers his name on some script he found at the bottom of a drawer of a desk he bought at an estate sale and calls it original.
Woody Allen is a director who has two speeds – breakneck and autopilot. His latest film, "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger," falls under the latter heading. This meandering morass moves like molasses through the boring lives of several uninspired characters, chronicling their neglected relationships as the bounce from obstacle to obstacle in their meaningless lives.
Allen manages to hit all the stock Hollywood clichés in one swing here with this latest stinker. We get Anthony Hopkins slumming it as the old dude who drops his hag wife for a hot bitch / hooker, Antonio Banderas as the exotic and inaccessible wealthy man with a bipolar wife and Naomi Watts as the frustrated spouse who gave up her dreams so that her no-account author husband can pursue his. In terms of plot, we also get that soap opera staple of guy-writes-book-but-then-dies-in-car-crash-so-other-guy-steals-his-book-but-wait-it-was-a-miscommunication-he's-in-a-coma-and-will-be-just-fine. This device is right up there with evil twins and missing wills when it comes to inducing chills down my scoliated spine. By the time Allen had dragged that old chestnut onto the screen I was half expecting a cameo by Susan Lucci to completely obliterate the fourth wall and let me know I had actually been watching a clever parody all along.
But no – I wasn't watching a parody. This wasn't "Not Another Woody Allen Movie." Instead, I was stuck viewing the film-making equivalent of ghostwriting, an embodiment of the on-screen celebrity product endorsement directing where instead of hawking Foreman grills, Woody Allen instead stickers his name on some script he found at the bottom of a drawer of a desk he bought at an estate sale and calls it original. Don't you wish you could wipe your ass with a piece of paper, sell it to Hollywood and watch the money come rolling in? It works for Michael Bay, and it works for Woody Allen too, only instead of explosions and Nick Cage we get poorly defined characters who exist only to make my life difficult for a two hour period that I would have rather spent masturbating to the dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History museum. That apatosaurus has some real curves, baby.
The fetishization of extinct sauropods aside, when Allen is on, he's on, and when he's off, well, it's like watching Lifetime if Lifetime had shifted its target audience to aging neurotic men scared of the future and forgetful of the past. Allen thinks he can loop some light jazz on the soundtrack, transfer his shitfest from New York City to London and make us all gloss over the fact that he made the same movie twenty years ago with a better cast and a script that was actually funny and poignant.
Unfortunately, I didn't bring enough ether with me into the theatre to completely abandon my senses – just a big enough dose to completely freak out whenever I thought Hopkins was going to die on-camera. Seriously, someone needs to stop casting him in any role where he's required to walk more than three steps, or I'm going to psychosomatically break my own hip in sympathy. And my hip's made of titanium.
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