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Ships Passing 

Woody Allen’s new film wants something it can’t have. So does its audience.

click to enlarge Frida Pinto deserves better
  • Frida Pinto deserves better

What kind of person would go see a new Woody Allen movie? A confused hipster? A resilient old fan? Someone who went banking on another hot Vicky Christina Barcelona-ish threesome?

I’m sorry, people. I was curious to find out myself, but when I went, I was the only person in the theater.

Five minutes into You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, it was clear the instinct to avoid this movie was a sound one. It became more sound as the film went on.

The plot is built around two struggling couples, Sally and Roy, and Sally’s parents, Helena and Alfie. The opening scene places us in sunny London (does that even happen?), where we are introduced to Helena (Gemma Jones).

Newly divorced and miserable, she is a Chihuahua of a woman — eyes bugging out while the rest of her maintains a constant, pathetic tremble. She frequents a quack psychic in order to deal with her husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), marrying a hooker named Charmaine (Lucy Punch) in order to be more in touch with his youth.

Meanwhile, Sally (Naomi Watts) develops a crush on her gallery owner boss (played by Antonio Banderas) when her marriage to a failing writer named Roy (Josh Brolin) begins to fall apart. Sally wants a baby, and Roy wants their neighbor Dia, who he watches undress frequently.

Things begin to spiral, fights ensue and then … nothing. The storyline, like the characters, is flat and, at times, impossible to follow.

In general, it’s hard to follow things you don’t care about, and things that aren’t worth caring about are all Allen gives us.

Allen seemingly wants to add image patterns by repeating small nuances: characters almost always dressed in a signature color, fresh flowers in every scene, quirky music, love blossoming when men help women with hurt ankles. Oh yeah, and everyone is constantly drinking booze. Always.

As a whole, the film feels more like a high school play — discombobulated, overdone and dependent on quirks and popular faces to carry it through.

But there is a tiny bit of passion found in the heart of the plot, and audiences are asked a suffocating question: What if the person you love doesn’t feel like enough? If there were any audience at all (literally or figuratively) for this film, I’m sure they’d be left pondering that.


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