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Tuesday, 19 October 2010 19:37

Meeting a "Tall Dark Stranger" Is Enticing

Meeting a "Tall Dark Stranger" Is Enticing
Written by Diane Carson
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Woody Allen has forged a film career exploring dysfunctional relationships and the individuals drawn to them like moths to the flame. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is Woody's latest interrogation of the numerous ways recognizable characters thrash about emotionally.

As we eavesdrop and they rush about, men and women will prove their delusional beliefs that the grass sure looks greener, and the misperception applies equally to all of life's stages—careers interrupted, just beginning or concluding. However, a glimmer of optimism attends to at least one or perhaps two characters and a handful of others who arrive at important realizations of their folly, though the knowledge may come too late to salvage dignity.

The primary players consist of several couples. There's Roy, whose first novel received praise, now stymied for inspiration, fawning over Dia whom he spies on across the courtyard. Roy's wife Sally yearns to start a family while working as an assistant to art gallery owner Greg, of whom she's enamored. Her mother Helena, recently divorced by Alfie, now relies on a fortune teller for comfort and guidance, while senior citizen Alfie makes a fool of himself over his new wife, golddigger Charmaine, one-third his age. Round and round they go.

Each has her or his own color scheme—red for Dia who evokes Roy's passion, white and pale beiges for Alfie and Charmaine, though she flirts also with black and the many colors of the fur coats she covets. Credit to art director Dominic Masters and award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.

An experienced director, Woody keeps the action, consisting mostly of crisp dialogue exchanges, moving quickly. He elicits first-rate performances from Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas and Gemma Jones. And I'm grateful he's greatly toned down his characteristic, annoying stuttering delivery.

The sun shines most of the time with London rain on hand only briefly. The world appears bright even when these often foolish, struggling individuals seek answers they should know and solace in all the wrong places. At a decisive moment, art gallery owner Greg astutely concludes, "You see how ironic and beautiful life is!" The voice-over narrator who comments throughout the film pronounces the corollary to this, noting, "Sometimes the illusions work better than the reality." You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, a promise from the fortuneteller to Helena, entertains breezily while offering some insightful observations. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

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