A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature comedy revisits complex themes that director Woody Allen often explores in his movies, including marriage, infidelity, and career ennui. There’s frank talk about marital dissatisfaction and plenty of grass-is-greener yearning. Most of it will likely go over the head of tweens and younger teens (not that they're likely to be interested), though older ones inclined to philosophizing may find it interesting. Expect some swearing (including "f--k") and drinking and images of women in their underwear.
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What's the story?
Londoner Helena (Gemma Jones) is beside herself: Her husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), has undergone a late-life crisis and left her, devoting himself to a physical makeover and his new, much younger, wife, Charmaine (Lucy Punch). But for Helena, the wisdom of her fortune-teller (Pauline Collins) is what makes sense. Meanwhile, their daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), is distracted by her new boss (Antonio Banderas) and can no longer hide her deep disappointment with her husband, Roy (Josh Brolin), an almost-doctor who had a semi-successful first novel but has been unable to conjure a decent follow-up. He worries that the most recent book he submitted won’t make the cut and is distracted by the pretty musicologist (Freida Pinto) whom he glimpses from his bedroom window.
Is it any good?
In many ways, YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER finds filmmaker Woody Allen in fine form. The dialogue is strong, the editing is crisp, the pacing natural. And the acting’s superb (especially the believably unraveling Watts). Still, what’s missing here -- and what’s been missing in Allen’s recent work, except for the delightful Vicky Cristina Barcelona -- is a sense that it’s trying to lure you into a conversation, one you preferably haven’t had numerous times.
Ultimately, for all its wonderful qualities, You Will Meet a Talk Dark Stranger feels just like that: a Woody Allen retread, like something out of his good old New York days but with a British accent and laced with annoyance at a world mired in the same questions ... and offering no new answers. The staving off of death by making foolish choices, the impatience with a life less luxe, the ambivalence over commitment -- they’re all here. Perhaps it’s true that life isn’t all that different, no matter what time period we live in -- the Hannah and Her Sisters 1980s or the Tall Dark Stranger 2010s -- or what complexities arise. Why bother then?
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