I Met a Short Frail Strange Woody Allen
On a lazy Sunday afternoon your grey cells are hibernating and all you do is stare into infinity, dream about dreams that always remain dreams, and the sweet pleasure that dissatisfaction brings. A perfect day to indulge in some strange, unpredictable (or maybe predictable, depends on how you predict), light-hearted comedy-drama by the classic maestro: Woody Allen. The good ol’ chap (was he ever young?) continues to entertain in his inimitable witty way.
Watching Woody Allen these days is like watching an oft-performed magic trick. We’ve seen it before but we like to see it again to decipher ‘how the hell did he do it?’. Allen is that magician whose tricks are the same but ‘Hey! No one’s complaining’, it’s still good fun. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (YWMATDS) is yet another act from Allen’s kitty that’s been performed one time too many (Vicky Christina Barcelona, Matchpoint, and the likes). We’ve seen the dissatisfied, emotionally vulnerable and completely flawed characters; we’ve seen the predictable unpredictability of events; we’ve seen the bizarre situations people knowingly get into. We’ve seen it all and yet we love to see them toil their life away.
This is vintage stuff. Although set in present day London, YWMATDS feels and looks like it is stuck in a time-warp. There are vintage cars, characters dressed prim and proper, art direction with a vignette feel, beautifully choreographed scenes where the camera keeps rolling with hardly any cuts, and a lilting classical score to give it that finishing touch. It almost reads like a book with an omniscient narrator and all.
Deluded characters who live and dwell in their own illusions with the hope of a better tomorrow. They fall, get hurt but never learn their lessons. That’s life anyways! Naomi Watts as Sally steals the thunder with her sensitive portrayal of a married woman who’s desperately fallen for her boss Greg (a dashing Antonio Banderas), who in-turn loves Sally’s protégé. And believe it or not! Sally shamelessly and desperately asks her boss for one last chance at love. Sally’s husband Roy (Josh Brolin), on the other hand, is a one-book-wonder writer, a loser perhaps. Rightly so, he ditches a beautiful Naomi Watts for his neighbour Dia (Freida Pinto), now only a loser would do that. To worsen things, Sally’s dad Alfie (Anthony Hopkins in a meaty role) divorces his wife Helena (Gemma Jones) to marry a prostitute. It doesn’t get more cynical than this. Jokes apart, YWMATDS has many beautiful moments. Peeping Tom, err…Roy, finds Dia hot when he’s watching her undress from his window. And then history repeats itself — Roy leaves Sally for Dia and looks longingly at his ex-wife Sally undress from Dia’s window. Like they say, the grass is always greener on the other side or in this case, the woman is always hotter on the other side of the window.
But the best characters are not the ones who are seemingly sane but the ones who are seemingly insane. Sally’s mom Helena is a nervous wreck who cannot do without constant drinking, babbling, quacks and mumbo-jumbo. Yet, in the end, for all her immaturity, it is she who finds back her satisfaction. What’s Woody trying to say? Like the Shakespearean quote in the movie, “Life was full of sound and fury and in the end, signified nothing” and that you’ll meet a tall dark stranger called Death anyways. Hmm… some thought to chew on. But I sure did re-meet a short frail strange Woody Allen.
Thanks for the review! Definitely looking forward to this one. I know a lot of people can’t stand his style and nervous demeanor, but for me, it’s perfect. In my opinion, Allen is and will go down as one of the most well referred auteurs in American cinema.
Thanks to you Matthew for dropping by my site. I am glad I’ve found a fellow Woody Allen fan.
I think most people can’t stand him now (since the last decade or so), but everyone loved his classics. Who can forget Annie Hall.
And btw, you might love the cinematography in this movie. I didn’t see too many over-the-shoulder shots; instead they were choreographed differently. I wouldn’t know much about cinematography being just a writer, but someone of your calibre might enjoy it a lot.
Very clever post. You seem to have taken more from this than I did. I thought it was okay and the screenplay was half baked. I’m glad I was not the only one who thought it was complete insanity to suggest any man would want to leave Naomi Watts, though Pinto isn’t too shabby herself.
Allen is no more the auteur he used to be, but his writing is still very crisp, clear and retains its cynicism. His storytelling is not too great either. This movie is nowhere close to the brilliant stuff he’s known for, but it’s still a solace to see him make movies at this age.
Oh, which man in his senses would ditch Watts? It infuriated me to see Roy do that. Maybe that’s very representative of Allen, he often leaves the beautiful woman in favour of a not-so-beautiful muse.