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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Sony Pictures // R // February 15, 2011
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted February 8, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Few would begrudge Woody Allen his status as one of cinema's pre-eminent chroniclers of the follies and foibles of the human heart. Annie Hall, Manhattan, even a more recent work like Vicky Cristina Barcelona -- a great number of Allen's films deftly sketch the tricky terrain of romance. But, as he's aged, the 75-year-old Allen has become equally preoccupied with mortality and darker themes that, heretofore, more or less served as subtext.

Coming on the heels of the so-so Whatever Works, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger tries, unsuccessfully, to merge frothy romantic comedy with a clipped British sensibility and a surprisingly bleak take on growing old and grappling with regret. (Although, perhaps as an indicator of this particular work's weight, Allen alludes to Shakespeare's famous line from "Macbeth" about a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" early on.) Allen, working, as always, as writer and director, marshals quite the cast for this London-set, London-shot dramedy: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch and Naomi Watts all play major roles.

Brolin and Watts are Sally and Roy Channing, a struggling author and art gallery assistant, respectively, fighting to keep their heads above water, financially, while also harboring thoughts of starting a family. Sally's mother and father, Alfie and Helena Shebritch (Hopkins and Jones, respectively) are separating after 40 years of marriage. He's interesting in chasing after women young enough to be his granddaughter; she's become consumed with visiting a fortune teller named Cristal (Pauline Collins). Added into this chaos are Sally and Roy's neighbor Dia (Pinto), Sally's boss Greg (Banderas) and Alfie's new, younger flame, Charmaine (Punch).

Although plenty happens during the course of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, the film never snaps to life. The cast seems to be going through the motions, with even the generally reliable Watts never moving much beneath the surface of her frustrated housewife (and, sorry, but it's hard to buy Brolin as a frustrated novelist). It's an enervating experience, which comes as something of a letdown, particularly with Allen efforts like the brisk, compelling Match Point not too far in the rearview mirror.

Stranger, despite its detached narration (by Zak Orth) and breezy feel, is a totally enervating experience, a film which feels as though it takes three hours to unspool, despite its relatively brief 95-minute run time. Too many of the domestic spats feel a little too raw for a comedy, while much of the dry humor is spread too thin throughout the film. Allen, who's plenty familiar with peaks and valleys, is at a low point here, struggling to spin a "tale told by an idiot" into something worth watching. Unfortunately, that Shakespearean quote proves all too telling: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger truly is sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing.

The DVD

The Video:

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger arrives on DVD with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Given the film's recent creation, the image is, by all appearances, immaculate, with no discernible flaws. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond's tasteful, casually gorgeous compositions look luminous; the picture never looks washed out or fuzzy. Everything is sharp, saturated and spot-on.

The Audio:

Nothing's changed from releases of previous Woody Allen films on DVD; the soundtrack, while crucial to conveying Allen's bristling dialogue, is not a wall-rattling demo piece. Instead, the English, Dolby Digital 3.0 track simply showcases the jaunty score, wry narration and all those back-and-forth exchanges with clarity and crispness. There's nary a hint of distortion or drop-out to be found. An optional French, Dolby Digital 3.0 track is included, as are optional English and French subtitles.

The Extras:

Again, much like previous Woody Allen DVD releases, there's little in the way of supplements. The film's theatrical trailer (presented in anamorphic widescreen) and an ad for the film's soundtrack are the only bonus features.

Final Thoughts:

Few would begrudge Woody Allen his status as one of cinema's pre-eminent chroniclers of the follies and foibles of the human heart. Annie Hall, Manhattan, even a more recent work like Vicky Cristina Barcelona -- a great number of Allen's films deftly sketch the tricky terrain of romance. But, as he's aged, the 75-year-old Allen has become equally preoccupied with mortality and darker themes that, heretofore, more or less served as subtext. Coming on the heels of the so-so Whatever Works, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger tries, unsuccessfully, to merge frothy romantic comedy with a clipped British sensibility and a surprisingly bleak take on growing old and grappling with regret. Stranger, despite its detached narration (by Zak Orth) and breezy feel, is a totally enervating experience, a film which feels as though it takes three hours to unspool, despite its relatively brief 95-minute run time. Too many of the domestic spats feel a little too raw for a comedy, while much of the dry humor is spread too thin throughout the film. Allen, who's plenty familiar with peaks and valleys, is at a low point here, struggling to spin a "tale told by an idiot" into something worth watching. It wobbles mightily on the line between Skipping it and Renting it, but out of deference to Allen's largely acclaimed filmography, it merits a very, very shaky Rent it.

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