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You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger 

Signifying Nothing: Filling in the lines of a “Woody Allen Movie Plot” Mad Libs.

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You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
  • You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
At the outset of Woody Allen’s latest romantic roundelay You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, the filmmaker makes the mistake of having his narrator (Zak Orth) intone the famous Macbeth quote about “a tale … full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Not only does it provide far too obvious a way to dismiss this tedious exercise, it avoids a key portion of the quote: that it’s a tale “told by an idiot.”

How else to describe Allen apparently thinking he can make the same movie over and over with diminishing returns, and audiences won’t notice or care? This time, he focuses on two couples in his latest favorite stomping ground, London. Helena (Gemma Jones) has taken to consulting a psychic after her traumatic separation from her husband of 40 years, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), who has become obsessed with re-capturing his lost youth. Their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts), meanwhile, struggles with conflict in her marriage to Roy (Josh Brolin), a once-promising novelist whose recent efforts haven’t matched the success of his early work (cue the irony alarm).

And so begins the carousel of flirtations and affairs—Sally with her art-dealer boss (Antonio Banderas), Roy with a sexy neighbor (Freida Pinto), Alfie with an “actress” (translation: hooker) trophy wife (Lucy Punch). But there’s exactly zero insight into the fickleness of the heart, or the fear that life isn’t turning as you planned. “People are funny,” is all Allen seems to have to say—even if these particular people aren’t actually that funny.

In fact, he comes up with exactly two funny situations: one involving Roy’s scheme to appropriate another writer’s work, and another involving Alfie’s need for Viagra. Everything else—from the jazz soundtrack to the high-culture touchstones—just feels like Allen is filling in the lines of a “Woody Allen Movie Plot” Mad Libs, and not particularly creatively.

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER

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Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins
Rated PG-13

Scott Renshaw:


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