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Cannes Critical Consensus: 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger'

May 15, 2010 | 10:02 pm

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Been there, done that.

That seems to be the early critical reaction to the latest Woody Allen movie, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," which premiered Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival.

The French festival has always been fond of showcasing films from auteur directors, but the reviewers of Allen's latest effort seem to have had their fill of the idiosyncratic New York filmmaker.  Sony Pictures Classics will release "Dark Stranger" on Sept. 23, and if it's to do much business, the notices better improve.

Here's a sampling from Cannes:

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune: "I wish I liked the new Woody Allen film better, especially in light of his previous Cannes-launched picture 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (his most satisfying in years). This one's a doodle.. a picture less seriocomic or bittersweet than simply uncertain of its comic and dramatic effects."

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "The film is notable, if that’s the word, for being the first movie Allen has made in London that is every bit as bad as his most awful New York comedies, like 'Anything Else' and 'Melinda and Melinda.' There should, by now, be an award for worst actor forced to impersonate Woody Allen in a Woody Allen film. I would probably give the award to Kenneth Branagh in 'Celebrity' (with Scarlett Johansson as a close runner-up in Scoop). But if Josh Brolin, in 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,' doesn’t quite enter the make-it-stop stratosphere of whiny fumbly stuttering embarrassment, he’s still got to be the least likely actor ever to play a faux-Woody neurotic intellectual."

Justin Chang, Variety: "By now it's clear Woody Allen doesn't much believe in God, destiny or the notion that life has any larger meaning, a message he tubthumps to increasingly feeble and unpersuasive effect in 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.' Fitfully amusing and nearly saved by its distinguished cast, this London-set ensembler is another of Allen's patented ironic ruminations on marital angst, vocational discontent and the overall pointlessness of human existence, so why not sit back and laugh at the futility of it all?"

Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: "As a film from Allen's ongoing British/European period, where he spins out comic trifles or morality plays that drift seemingly free of national context, the comedy is more amusing than most, though it lacks the vibrant spirit of 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona.' This is Woody in a bemused mood, devilishly complicating his characters' lives with follies and foibles of their own making until he ties each protagonist into a comic pretzel. Then he takes a tea break."

Jason Solomons, The Obersver: "Even Allen's most dedicated fans have had their faith in the 74-year-old New Yorter's powers sorely tested by some of his late-period output, but the new ensemble comedy, starring Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin and Lucy Punch, is his most assured and sprightly work for many years."

Richard Corliss, Time: "...'Tall Dark Stranger," like (Mike Leigh's) 'Another Year,' shows a top film artist in a holding pattern. For those who find this minor Woody, no need to fret long. He's already at work on his next film, and this time there will be a French connection. Among his stars is Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. That relationship should make for a piquant group photo on Cannes' red carpet next year."

--John Horn

Photo of Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger": Sony Pictures Classics.


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