It doesn’t take long to work out that Woody Allen’s latest film, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” is about the merits and limits of delusion. The film is structured like a high school term paper, à la: this will be a film about deluded people; here are some deluded people; this has been a film about deluded people. To make it even simpler, a kindly narrator (Zak Orth) introduces each character in a succinct, “Okay, lets begin with Helena” fashion, and then said characters proceed to articulate every key idea in the film: life’s a disaster; of course we delude ourselves; stop thinking that one delusion is better than the next. Some particularly pithy lines — “The illusions work better than the medicine” — even come around twice for those who were distracted by the butter content of their popcorn the first time around.
Helena — played with teary, tipsy determination by Gemma Jones — is the glowing orb at the center of all the folly. To help herself get through her divorce, Helena tries psychology, psychiatry and weekly massages before settling on Cristal (Pauline Collins), a clairvoyant whose supernatural paraphernalia consists of a deck of playing cards and a bottle of scotch. Cristal invariably posits imminent influxes of positive energy, and Helena delights in sharing her new-found omniscience with her daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts).