Kept afloat by an excellent cast, Woody Allen's fourth movie about callow Londoners recklessly pursuing emotional wreckage begins with wisdom from the Bard, but thereafter it's the same old Bergman-lite.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is as careless with plot and structure as any recent Allen movie — the price, perhaps, of sustaining hectic productivity into old age while abandoning his beloved New York for photogenic European capitals. As always, desire and illusion fuel this paper-thin tale of a graying Englishman (Anthony Hopkins) trying to beat the mortality odds by dumping his wife (Gemma Jones) for a bimbo hooker named Charmaine (Lucy Punch). His daughter (Naomi Watts) grows a crush on her art-gallery boss (Antonio Banderas), while her novelist husband (Josh Brolin) whiles away his writer's block by watching his neighbor (Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto) undress at her window.
That the movie is not more dull is due in part to the adorably flamboyant Punch (Dinner for Schmucks, Hot Fuzz), drawing on ancient British vaudeville traditions as the prostitute whose instinctive carnality makes Hopkins' character feel first young again, then totally tapped out.
At almost 75 years old, committed nihilist Woody Allen still believes that we need "the eggs" — the buzz of relationship however crazy or forbidden. So we do, but what a pity that lately, from him, they come parboiled.