Call Girl Baffles Anthony Hopkins in Woody Allen Movie: Review

Actors Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts
Actors Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts play a father and daughter in Woody Allen's newest film ''You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.'' The movie, which also stars Josh Brolin, screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Source: Festival de Cannes via Bloomberg News.

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Cool summers and cheaper costs have driven Woody Allen to base his new movie in London once again. This time, he really captures the spirit of the place.

In “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” -- which screened at the Cannes Film Festival -- the 74-year-old writer-director shows two dysfunctional couples, one old and one young.

Helena, a dainty lady of a certain age, seeks consolation after being dumped by her husband Alfie. A fortune teller tells her that she’ll soon meet a handsome stranger. “You’re bathed in a rose light,” pledges the aptly named Cristal.

Her well-off ex-husband (Anthony Hopkins) sets out to prove, mainly to himself, that he brims with youth and stamina. Alfie jogs, pumps iron, and seduces an undereducated, saucy blonde named Charmaine, who just loves mink. “Three more minutes,” pleads Alfie on the way to bed, as he waits for a performance-enhancing pill to kick in.

Helena and Alfie’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is half of the younger couple in the film. A self-doubting art-history graduate, she becomes the personal assistant to suave gallery owner Greg Clemente (well played by Antonio Banderas).

Sally’s husband Roy (Josh Brolin) struggles to write a follow-up to his hit first novel. He sits home all day, ogling a comely neighbor through the window. Rent is paid by his mother-in-law, who constantly puts Roy down; Roy gets his own back, vowing that she’ll meet the same tall dark stranger everyone else does (meaning the grim reaper).


This is by far Woody Allen’s best London-based movie. “Match Point” (2005) -- about an upwardly mobile London lad who ditched his American girlfriend to marry old money -- felt artificial in its plot twists, and never quite hit the class-system nail on the head.

“Cassandra’s Dream” (2007) -- showing two debt-ridden brothers who turned to crime -- was even less convincing. Again, Allen seemed ill at ease tackling a plot-heavy movie with a British cast.

In “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” there’s less of a beginning, middle, and end. The film is unresolved, like life itself, and that’s okay. This is a laugh-out-loud story on the trials of life, love, and aging, what Allen does best.

There are great performances from stars and supporting cast alike. Hopkins projects pathos as the perma-tanned older man who wants his youth back. Brolin (Oliver Stone’s “W.”) deftly conveys the very male sense of inadequacy that comes with inability to pay the rent.

Of the gifted British actors, a special mention goes to Gemma Jones as the delusional Helena, and to Lucy Punch as the dishy Charmaine, who would do anything for a few luxuries. Anyone who thinks she’s a caricature hasn’t lived in London long enough.

For a time, Allen had you missing his Manhattan period, as he pumped out often unsatisfying, Euro-trashy fare. This new picture leads you to believe the man is finally getting to grips with the Old World.

Rating: ***.

(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

What the Stars Mean:
 ****          Excellent
 ***           Good
 **            Average
 *             Poor
 (No stars)    Worthless

To contact the writer of this review: Farah Nayeri in Cannes at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at