Sex and the single geezer
AS THE world changes, it continues to remain very much the same. Winter leads into spring. New growths disturb the earth. The days slowly begin to stretch out. Woody Allen releases a film about an old man falling in love with a stupid young woman. It has been thus since humans tilled the fields with hewn branches.
There is, of course, something comforting about the regular arrival of the latest Allen film (when they get a release in these territories, that is). The occasional catastrophe such as Cassandra’s Dream noted, Woody continues to deliver a modestly impressive hit rate of decent gags and knotty emotional conundrums.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is, putting it at its kindest, something of a mixed bag. Of the clutter of stories roughly spliced together, one is very amusing, two are passable and one is borderline offensive.
After a welcome return to New York for last year’s Whatever Works, the director is back in his own weirdly clean, disconcertingly under-populated (except where celebrities are concerned) version of upper-middle-class London.
The plots huddle around the unhappy life of a pretty couple given inhuman flesh by Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin. He is a blocked novelist. She is falling for the sleek boss (Antonio Banderas doing Antontio Banderas) of the gallery at which she has recently begun work. While failing to write his next masterwork, Josh lusts after a pretty girl (Freida Pinto) who lives on the other side of the courtyard. Meanwhile, Naomi’s dad, played by a distracted Anthony Hopkins, is making a fool of himself with, yes, an idiot (Lucy Punch) young enough to be his granddaughter. Other subplots abound.
One can put up with a few amoral characters in a sex comedy, but the consistent, unrelenting wretchedness of the circling philanderers in Dark Stranger fast becomes exhausting. More seriously, the utter disdain showed towards Hopkins’s new partner – not only stupid, but also a prostitute – reminds us of the unhealthy strand of misogyny that runs through Allen’s work.
Still, there are reasons to stick with Dark Stranger (the title’s allusion to death is intended). One minor plot finds Brolin robbing a manuscript from a deceased author and peddling it as his own. His final darkly hilarious reckoning – a classic Woody Allen moment – deserves positioning in a much better film.
Sucker Punch: Lucy turns old crock Anthony Hopkins into a fool for love Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Pauline Collins, Anna Friel