you_will_meet_a_tall_dark_stranger_ver3We all want what we can’t have. No matter how many times we read the last couple of Commandments we’re all held captive to the idea that our lives would be just a little bit – or a lot – better if we just had what *that* person had. More times than not, though, when we do get it, or get close to acquiring it, we find that there are problems. Things rarely if ever turn out as idyllic as we imagine they will be. As John Cusack says toward the end of High Fidelity, “I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains. “

The quest for the slightly greener grass and the realities of getting it are at the heart of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, the new movie from actor/writer/director Woody Allen. The movie, of course, focuses on relationships. There’s an older couple (Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones) who have divorced as he has a mid-life crisis, their daughter and her husband (Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin) who are faltering as his career flounders, the lovely young woman who lives across the street from them (Freida Pinto) and becomes the focus of Brolin’s attention and Watts’ boss (Antonio Banderas) who represents to her the ideal romantic and adoring man.

All these moving parts, though, find that following their hearts isn’t fulfilling as it is easy. So with an ensemble cast and an iconic director, let’s take a look at the campaign.

The Posters

The movie’s poster is, as is typical with many of Allen’s films, highly on the artistic side. The silhouette of a man – someone who looks a lot like Elvis Presley for some reason – is seen against the bright moon as he kisses the hand of a young lady who is largely off camera. The credits and title are all in the usual Allen font. Unlike some of his recent movies, this poster actually declares the film as coming from Allen in decently large type.

It’s an alright poster that certainly hits all the usual Allen selling points: The movie is written and directed by him and features an amusingly eclectic ensemble cast. Beyond, that, there’s not much about the movie here. It’s safe to assume based on the image that it’s a romance but there’s nothing about anything further.

The Trailers

The first trailer comes off as intriguing but, for anyone who hasn’t already bought in to Woody Allen as a whole, it’s probably going to come off as a bit odd.

We’re introduced throughout the trailer to the vast cast of the movie. There’s the couple played by Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts, he a struggling writer and she an executive of some sort, whose marriage is crumbling down around them. She tells her troubles to – and becomes more and more involved with – her boss, played by Antonio Banderas. He finds the last remaining sparks of his inspiration kindled by the beautiful woman across the street, played by Freida Pinto. At the same time all that’s happening, Watts is dealing with her mother (Gemma Jones) who is looking for ways to move on with her life after her husband (Anthony Hopkins) leaves her as a result of his mid-life crisis.

The trailer moves along well enough and it’s easy to recognize the familiar Allen beats in the script and performances. What may come off a bit odd to some audiences is the really straight-forward and stilted voice-over, which does most of the work in laying out the film’s story. The way the voice-over is done, though, reminds me of a trailer coming out of the ’60s or ’70s.


The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer and also has on the front page links to find showtimes and download a PDF of press notes and other material.

Once you Enter the Site you’re taken to a single page where all the content for the movie is laid out so you can scroll up and down or use the little cloud thing that has deep-links to skip to one section or another.

“About” has a Synopsis and Production Notes, both of which are well-written but are so tiny they’re pretty difficult to actually read. The usual biographies and career overviews can be found in the “Cast & Crew” area.

The trailer and over 20 stills can be found in the “Media” area. Finally “Extras” has links to buy tickets as well as links to the IMDb and Wikipedia pages for the cast and crew.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen in this area. If there were ads run online or on TV I haven’t come across them.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s first major festival appearance wound up being at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. That resulted in interviews with Allen about the themes of the movie (New York Times, 9/15/10) and his career in general and more. There were also stories that reminded us of the fact that Allen never really stops working (Los Angeles Times, 9/21/10) and has already made significant process on his next two movies.


Much of this campaign, unsurprisingly, is aimed not at the general audience but simply at existing fans of Allen’s movies. At least the ones who didn’t abandon the director completely after 1995 or so. The trailer and poster are both designed specifically to speak to that portion of the audience by presenting a movie that’s immediately recognizable as an Allen film with the artistic look to the poster and the rather dated sounding voiceover on the trailer. Not that it’s not good, but it seems like a throwback.

The press category of the push winds up coming off as the strongest simply by virtue of its being the most cohesive and in-depth. It also has the most power to move outside audiences, though how much is still in question. But at least there’s a consistent story to tell there, one that focuses not on the movie itself but on Allen. That’s good and bad news since it turns all movies into sub-sets of the Allen brand, which brings it back to depending on the audience’s general interest in and tolerance for the writer/director.