British cinemagoers finally get to see Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris when it opens on 7th October 2011. I’ve heard good things about this film, so I am really looking forward to it. I really enjoyed last year’s Whatever Works, so this should be factored in when you appraise the worth of my opinion. Manhattan Murder Mystery is probably my favourite of Allen’s films, so also factor this in. Midnight in Paris stars Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard and Rachel McAdams.
After forty years of marriage, Alfie leaves his wife Helena to pursue a younger lifestyle and a younger woman. Meanwhile, their daughter Sally longs to start a family but is having marital problems with her husband, struggling writer Greg. Each of the four encounters new people, which leads to trouble…
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger lacks the charm of some of Allen’s earlier efforts, such as Manhattan Murder Mystery. Nevertheless, the film is still amusing and engaging. Characters are well written, if not always likeable, and the incidents that occur offer humour as well as contemplation.
Allen centres the action on a family, and their liaisons with others. It is very much an ensemble piece, with the four main characters wrangling for screen time with the assorted extras. Some of these side characters appear a little one dimensional, but add comedy and drama to proceedings.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as witty as some of Woody Allen’s best scripts. Humour is present however, and it is mostly generated through Helena and the minor characters. There is no distinct Woody Allen character, such as Boris in Whatever Works. Instead, a number of the characters take on the writer-director’s typical neuroses. Most prominent of these is Helena, who likes a drink and appears highly-strung. Elsewhere, Roy is the writer struggling with self-confidence, and attracted to a beautiful young woman. It is perhaps because of this absence of the singular recognisable Allen archetype that the film fails to enamour in the same way as the filmmaker’s best films. It is this character type that often brings the wit, which would explain why You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as consistently funny as you would hope.
Allen’s other London-based movies have not been that well received. However, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger fares better than the previous movies set in the city. The film paints a fairly romanticised picture of London; the locations featured are in the more attractive areas of the city. This is not unexpected as gritty realism is not something Allen is known for.
Performances from the cast are excellent overall, and the casting is spot on. Gemma Jones as Helena stands out in particular, while Naomi Watts is convincing as Sally. Lucy Punch is suitably over the top as Charmaine.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is an enjoyable movie, which is underscored by a layer of quiet contemplation. It is definitely worth a watch, even if it is not the film Woody Allen fans were hoping for.
As with most years, 2010 has offered us the good, the bad and the ugly. The following is a highly subjective list of some of the best things to come out of cinema this year. Feel free to add your own entries in the comments below.
1. The Return Of Michael Keaton
Following appearances in such cinematic classics as First Daughter, Michael Keaton spent a number of years in the land successful wide releases forgot. That changed in 2010, with a memorable role voicing Ken in the hugely successful Toy Story 3, and scene-stealing as Captain Gene Mauch in The Other Guys. Although the latter was not exactly the film of the year, Keaton raised the bar with a fantastic comic performance reminiscent of his glory days. This served as a timely reminder of his charisma and aptitude for comedy in Night Shift and Beetlejuice among others. Welcome back, Mr Keaton!
2. Warner Bros Greenlit Inception
Despite its box office success, Inception is a film that has divided critics and audiences. Love it or hate it, we should all be grateful that the studio greenlit the big-budget production in the first place. Based on an original screenplay, Inception was a refuge from the barrage of sequels, remakes, spin-offs and adaptations. Inception was a blockbuster that was engaging yet accessible. For the film, Warner Bros expended the kind of marketing strategy usually reserved for pre-sold entities. Given the healthy box office returns, the gamble certainly paid off. Hopefully Inception‘s success will give more studios the confidence to follow suit.
3. Disney Released A Traditionally Animated Feature
The Princess and the Frog (released in February 2010 in the UK) marked the first hand-drawn animation film from Disney since 2004. The past five years have seen no shortage in animated films; however these have tended to be of the computer generated variety. While features such as Up look fantastic, there is something quintessentially Disney about The Princess and the Frog. The beautiful animation harks back to the golden age of the early and mid-nineties, when each year would see a now classic Disney animated feature. Only time will tell whether The Princess and the Frog will be appraised in the same way as films such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. In the meantime, the film indicates at least some variety in Disney’s output.
4. Referencing The 1980s Is Still In Vogue
Certainly not a new trend for 2010, for a number of years now cinema has been harking back to the eighties. Be it long overdue sequels to 1980s hits (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), remakes or even choice of soundtrack, referencing that most magical of decades has been a fixture in Hollywood in recent years. 2010, however, may have pulled of a coup d’état with the gloriously nostalgic Hot Tub Time Machine. With an amazing soundtrack and a plethora of references to 1980s films, fashion and popular culture, Steve Pink’s film was the ultimate homage to the much-loved decade.
5. David Fincher Signed On To Direct A Film About Facebook
A film about the creation of social networking site Facebook sounded just about the most unappealing premise of the year. Interest was peaked when David Fincher was announced as director of the project in 2009, but many, like myself, remained unconvinced. All that changed when the film was released in October 2010. The Social Network was one of the most absorbing films of the year, brilliantly executed and visually handsome. A very welcome surprise.
6. Woody Allen Dusted Off A Script From The ’70s
Released in June 2010 in the UK, Whatever Works saw a return to form for prolific director Woody Allen. Based on his original script from the 1970s, Whatever Works featured all the hallmarks of a classic Allen feature; witty dialogue, well-written characters and the New York setting. The film served as a reminder of why Woody Allen is such a lauded filmmaker, and is reminiscent of some of his best-loved pictures of the 1970s and 1980s. Here’s hoping Allen has a few more scripts gathering dust in his attic.
7. Colin Firth Stepped Up His Game
A bastion of period drama and romantic comedies, in 2010 Colin Firth revealed his flair for more serious dramatic roles with two magnificent performances. Firth conveyed the aching tragedy of George in Tom Ford’s A Single Man (released in February 2010 in the UK), and was thoroughly convincing as George VI in The King’s Speech (screened at the London Film Festival in October 2010). Having won awards for A Single Man and already receiving nominations for The King’s Speech, these triumphs are almost enough for us to forget Mamma Mia. Almost.
8. Danny Boyle Produced One Of The Most Wince-Inducing Scenes In Film History
Collective squirming ensued in screenings throughout the world when Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours was released (screened at the London Film Festival in October 2010). Most viewers would have known what to expect, but the film excels in building tension right up until this point. The event itself was visceral enough to apparently induce vomiting and fainting amongst audience members. This may just have been good marketing, but what remains is one of the most memorable scenes of 2010.
9. The Bounty Hunter Was Released In March
Though it has faced some stiff competition, The Bounty Hunter was the worst film released this year. For an action comedy, The Bounty Hunter was painfully unfunny. Like a childhood trauma, time dulls the pain, although you never entirely forget.
10. Joe Dante Directed A ‘Family Horror’
The Hole (released September 2010 in the UK) may not be the greatest film of the year, but it was certainly one of the scariest. For a film with child protagonists and aimed at a family audience, the film was surprisingly frightening. The Hole played on the most primal of fears, which resulted in a film that was far more effective than many of the adult horrors released this year. Although The Hole has been rather overlooked in terms of critical acclaim, it is a must-see for horror aficionados.
Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, released only recently in the UK, sees a return to form for one of cinema’s most industrious directors and screenwriters.
Boris is an aging, cynical New Yorker set in his ways. When he decides to let a young runaway stay at his apartment, the two form an unlikely friendship, influencing each others’ long-standing beliefs…
Taking the action back to New York was a good move by Allen; it is the setting of some of his best work, after all. Not only is the city presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but it also acts as a powerful force within the movie. New York offers the freedom for people to truly be themselves, or at least this is what Whatever Works suggests.
Allen is back on top form with his writing. The dialogue of Whatever Works showcases his talents at their best; it is witty and intelligent, yet relatable. Unfortunately the director does not appear in this film. He is, however, manifest in the character of Boris; the idiosyncrasies, the neuroses and the attitude is plain to see.
Larry David does an excellent job as protagonist Boris. At times an unlikeable character, nevertheless there is something intensely human (that is to say fallible) about him, which makes it easy to relate to him. Rachel Evan Wood gives a good performance as the young Melody, and Patricia Clarkson excels in her supporting role.
Whatever Works, like most Woody Allen films, won’t appeal to everyone. However, it is both an enjoyable and a well-made film. Unlike so much of mainstream Hollywood’s recent output, the film offers good writing, good performances, and that crucial element of originality.
Whilst last year’s Vicky Christina Barcelona was a cut above a lot of other releases, it lacks the warmth that emanates from Whatever Works. At the beginning, Boris tells the audience that this isn’t a “feel-good film”. But it really is, as the underlying premise is an immensely positive one. By this standard, Allen’s next release, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, is eagerly anticipated.