You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
 
            Woody Allen’s signature trademark is an ensemble of articulate, cosmopolitan urban adults who make a shipwreck of their lives by allowing themselves to be controlled by whatever passing passion looks irresistible.  So there is a kind of urbane, sophisticated immaturity that rarely fails to be compelling to those of us whose romantic lives are much more sedate and arcane.  Catching a vicarious spirit of romantic adventure, perhaps?
            Gemma Jones plays Helena, one of those appealing older women, who in their more advanced years, still can command the label “handsome,” which is somewhere between “still gorgeous” and “dowager”.  Her long-time husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), has suddenly developed the “just-retired-and-going-through-third-life-crisis” syndrome, where he exercises furiously, buys a new sports car, ditches the long-term,  faithful spouse, and thinks that he can somehow recover a lost youth by being with women who are ridiculously younger and embarrassingly vulgar.  Gemma compensates by desperately attaching herself to a self-styled psychic named Cristal (Pauline Collins), who is plainly a charlatan and a grifter.  Their grown daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), has her own problems:  she’s been putting off a career because she wants to raise a family, but her husband, Roy (Josh Brolin), has had the misfortune of being a successful novelist---once---and is still trying to prove he’s more than a one-shot wonder.   While constantly staring out the window, he becomes enamored with his new neighbor, Dia (Freida Pinto), whose fiancée is in another country, and doesn’t understand herself why she’s returning the shameless flirting of the married voyeur across the alleyway.  (Except that we’re all suckers for shameless flattery?)  Sally, meanwhile, in exasperation, takes a job just to keep from depending too much on her mother’s continuing generosity, and becomes enamored with her boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), an art dealer who, conveniently, complains about his wife’s inattentions.  Sally can’t believe that her father is actually serious about Charmain (Lucy Punch), who’s clearly a gold-digger who keeps taking her eyes off the prize with her muscleheaded trainer at the gym. 
            Yes, the incongruity is that people who appear to be so intelligent act like such fools.  Once more, the gentle parody of writer and director Woody Allen is evident, but the problem with an ensemble cast like this is that no character can be fully developed, and besides, almost everyone’s behavior is, sooner, or later, reprehensible, so it’s difficult to find anyone to root for, either.  But we still enjoy the ride, and we’ll even forgive this “slice of life” kind of self-proclaimed “sound and fury, signifying nothing” that doesn’t really end, it just quits, because, well, it’s Woody Allen.  And his characters are always pleasing to the eye and the ear, if not the conscience.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas