Friday, December 24, 2010


The opening credits look familiar—white Windsor Light Condensed font against a black background; the jazz music is familiar, but that’s where the familiarity ends.

It was like watching Husbands and Wives without the wry humour; like Match Point without the rollercoaster of emotions; like Crimes and Misdemeanors but without the drama. It feels like Woody Allen has become jaded with life and it is beginning to show in his characters—they just won’t fight any more. In all his previous movies, his characters ended up sadder and wiser, but did not look to the future helplessly; the sadness was bittersweet. In this movie though, there was this bitterness in the end— bitterness with a life’s worth of bad decisions. And a sense of utter hopelessness (which persisted after the movie ended and was responsible for a sleepless night). Could it be, Woody, that your bad choices too have caught up with you?

Having said that, this is a decent watch. A bad or mediocre Woody Allen film is still a head and shoulder above most of the dross that gets churned out of Hollywood. Unlike many other directors, Woody leaves his imprints all over his movies—they are so bound to him that no discussion of his movie is complete without a discussion of him and his previous works.

The problem with having such a magnificent oeuvre of works is that every single project thereafter will always be judged in comparison, and that’s a double edged dagger because there will come a day when you won’t be able to better yourself. To give credit where it is due, Woody Allen is definitely trying something new with the last few films—trying to move away from the Diane Keaton/ Mia Farrow in New York dating the neurotic Jewish guy and the cerebral dialogue style that really defined him in the past.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger follows the lives of the members of a family, each of whom are dissatisfied with their current state of affairs and decide to go out and change their lives. And then have to face the consequences of those decisions. The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, and the girl from the opposite building looks much more beautiful than the one in your room.

Some of the actors were phoning it in, while the others were laying it on thick to compensate. Antonio Banderas was completely under-utilized. Freida Pindo—I can’t tell if she was giving it her all or if she was trying to fly under the radar, but we ought to cut her some slack; it would overwhelm anybody to work with such industry heavyweights. Also, what was with all her red outfits? It became silly and contrived after a point. And the narrator! That chipper, Ryan Seacrest-y voice annoyed me thoroughly— I almost expected the characters break into song and then be put down by an abrasive British man. Have someone with a nice, comforting voice like Alec Baldwin in The Royal Tenenbaums.

Anthony Hopkins was definitely my favourite—as an old man who didn’t like the fact that his wife had grown old and decided he needed a younger, feistier thing, he was superb. I think of all the characters, his coming to terms with the choices one makes was the most touching, and his "fall" endears him to the audience. The way he has to take Viagra to keep up with his gorgeous young wife, who is sprawled on a fur coat wearing sheer lingerie, asking him to make sweet, sweet love to her and he says, “Three more minutes, darling. He was pretty much the only character whose motivations were clear, and the only character with any sort of development.

They say one must write only about what you know. I assume the same is true for movies too, which is why I can understand why Woody Allen is comfortable with making movies about relationships and marriage; he really gets them. And nobody has even come close to depicting marriage so humorously, and yet, so tenderly.

While you may not agree with the endings of his movies, one left sated and fulfilled. No niggling feelings. Ever since Scoop though, the endings have failed to satisfy, including this movie. It is almost as if Woody doesn't know the ending to his stories anymore. I think it’s the weather in London, Woody—go back to New York. You made that city come alive in a way London never will. That’s where you belong.

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