From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” could be considered the anti-“Valentine’s Day,” a tartly written, darkly comedic shot of sophistication to wash away the artificially sweet aftertaste of Garry Marshall’s happy-happy 2010 box-office hit.
Like Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day,” the predecessor to this year’s inevitable sequel “New Year’s Eve,” “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is a star-studded romantic comedy that chronicles the love lives of multiple interconnected couples. But since it’s a Woody Allen movie “Tall Dark Stranger” is less fairy tale than cautionary tale.
Allen’s anthology film focuses on a well-heeled London family whose marital relations are on the rocks: Patriarch Alfie Shebritch (Anthony Hopkins) has left his wife of nearly 40 years, Helena (Gemma Jones) because she had the nerve to get old and he just won’t stand for such nonsense. While Helena seeks solace from a friendly but fake fortune teller (Pauline Collins), Alfie becomes obsessed with fitness and pursues a ditsy but effective gold-digger (the hilarious Lucy Punch) younger than their daughter.
Their daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), longs to start a family and open an art gallery, but she and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), an American novelist struggling to write an acceptable follow-up to his moderately successful first book, are having money troubles. While Sally harbors a crush on her boss (Antonio Banderas), a well-known gallery owner, Roy is infatuated with the fetching musician (Freida Pinto) he spies through the window of a neighboring flat.
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” doesn’t have the charm of Allen’s 1977 Oscar winner “Annie Hall” or the sharpness of his 2008 romantic drama “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” But the superb cast imbues the deeply flawed characters with needed warmth and genuine humanity on their often-desperate quests for love and success and through the hard lessons they sometimes learn while exploring the grass on the other side of the proverbial fence.