September 10, 2010
- Erica Abeel
Woody Allen's Ensemble Comedy Shines in Toronto
Oh yeah, the movies. I'm here to tell you that with You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen is in terrific form -- in fact, the best in years. With the usual white titles on black, oldie "When You Wish Upon a Star" tinkling on the soundtrack, you relax back in your seat and happily surrender to Woody-land. A voice-over instantly takes charge to relate a story of two London-based couples with adulterous itches. Josh Brolin is bashing away at a new novel without much success, while wife Naomi Watts works for elegant art gallerist Antonio Banderas. Brolin has the hots for neighboring guitarist Freida Pinto, while Watts covets her boss.
The kinks and twists in the characters' destiny amuse without flagging. You will love the scene in which Watts does her damndest to convey her attraction to Banderas, who maddeningly refuses even to acknowledge that she's coming on to him. It's a brilliant new bit in Woody's gallery of miscommunicating couples.
Yet another story concerns a senior, Anthony Hopkins, who has dumped his wife to pursue fitness and who eventually marries a hooker. Easy laughs and Viagra jokes here, but Hopkins lends them gravitas. Of course, this being Woody-land, Hopkins has been prompted to alter his life by a vision of eternity yawning before him, impelling him to live it up NOW. (Cue Larry David in Whatever It Takes who wakes up at night exclaiming "the horror, the horror.") Who but Woody can make fear of death so consistently entertaining? Meanwhile, Hopkins' abandoned wife has fallen prey to a fortune teller who believes in reincarnation. By film's end the lives of the characters are pretty much in a shambles. With one exception: a character who has bought peace and fulfillment by abandoning reason and living entirely in illusion. A sardonic denouement, but delivered with the lightest of touches.
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