Woody Allen has been making films for a half century. You can probably break his career into three eras: Origins, New York and now Europe. He has averaged almost one movie a year for fifty years.

Allen’s films always involve fractured relationships that are on the brink of destruction. In his later career, Allen’s best films are always the ones where he is just writer and director.

You always know an Allen film. He uses the same font for his title cards. His opening credits are always the same. And the musical score is always big band brassy. It is very rare that Allen sways from this mold.

As a movie lover these staples are kind of like those worn out leather shoes, your mother or wife has asked you to throw out, but you have refused because they are just so darn comfortable. These staples are a homecoming both for Allen and his audience.

This time Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” involves Anthony Hopkins as Alfie, a divorced elderly man who has whimsically married a female escort (Lucy Punch). Alfie’s ex wife Helena (Gemma Jones) is seeking advice through a psychic as she tries to move on.

Alfie’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is an art gallery assistant who works for the dashing Greg (Antonio Banderas) and is married to the struggling writer Roy (Josh Brolin).

All of them dream of a better life in different ways.  Alfie thinks he will find it with a younger woman. Helena wants someone to tell her about her destiny. Sally sees a future in Greg’s arms. And Roy has fallen for the mysterious lady in red (Freida Pinto) he sees from his window.

The movie is all about turning points in relationships and how the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But really is it worth risking everything to leap that fence.

Allen directs this film, based in London, like he shot many of his New York movies. There really isn’t a difference with this locale. This shows comfort on Allen’s part but really doesn’t add anything to the film. This could be happening anywhere.

Hopkins is always good but being part of an ensemble really never allows for any particular cast member to steal the show. Watts and Brolin go through the paces but I wouldn’t say the movie challenges them at all. Pinto is continuing her ascent in Hollywood and this is just another notch in her belt. And Banderas is charming as always.

I really liked Gemma Jones, the scatterbrained mother. She might be consulting a psychic but she seems to be the sanest one in the movie.

And she is quite a delight in her performance. A perfect Woody Allen character.

Woody Allen has a history of finding fresh talent and he found some in Lucy Punch and her career has started to take off in Hollywood.  She is quite good in this movie and just comes off as a natural. How she keeps Hopkins on his toes is quite fun to watch.

I enjoy wearing my comfortable shoes and I wear them any chance that I get.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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