starring Eileen Atkins, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater
written and directed by Woody Allen
by Angelo Muredda There's a scene late in Woody Allen's mostly forgotten You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger that briefly complicates its status as one of the prolific filmmaker's lighter doodles. Swept away by her feelings for her boss (Antonio Banderas), Naomi Watts's normally buttoned-up Sally takes a chance and confesses. In turn, she is swiftly rejected, and summarily dismissed as a partner, a colleague, and a person in one cruel wave of the arm. It's a scene Allen has indulged in before: he's always liked to see his onscreen women suffer a little, whether in Isaac's callous it's-not-me-it's-you dumping of Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) in Manhattan or the unceremonious jilting of poor Cecilia (Mia Farrow) in The Purple Rose of Cairo. But it's a sharp sting in a film as innocuous as Stranger, a reminder that for all the comforts of settling into his aesthetic of Windsor typeface and big-band music, Allen is not an especially warm filmmaker, not even in his comedies. Even with that in mind, his newest, Magic in the Moonlight, is an especially baffling thing--a dry, mean-spirited essay about that old romantic-comedy staple: the inevitability of death and decay.