I’m perhaps the biggest Woody Allen apologist there is – I’m capable of enjoying some of his more critically lambasted films, such as 2009’s Whatever Works. But You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger tests my conviction to the writer-director, and ultimately, I can’t say I really enjoyed it.
What draws me in to most Woody Allen films is his sharp writing. His direction is often unobtrusive, and rather unimpressive. Not to slight Allen, but I simply don’t feel like his direction adequately matches up with his writing. That in-itself doesn’t prevent me from enjoying his films, largely because his writing can be so good. But in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Allen writes in auto-pilot, churning out a plot that is reminiscent to several of his earlier (better) films, most notably Husbands and Wives. Redundancy was never much of a problem for Allen, what with Whatever Works basically functioning as an updated version of Manhattan, but even that had a central performance in Larry David that was interesting.
So little is of interest in Tall Dark Stranger – several plot lines involving deceit, romanticism, and the occult simply exist. They don’t weave in a cohesive thematic way – they merely occur because the characters happen to know each other. The film’s most interesting vignette involves Josh Brolin- playing a down-on-his luck writer; he passes off a manuscript written by a presumably deceased friend as his own. Lifted from Movern Callar, the vignette steamlines Ramsay’s film, but even then, its lack of poignancy makes the story feel incredibly thin.