Marshall Fine‘s review of Woody Allen‘s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (Sony Classics, 9.22) is a little kinder and gentler than my own, which I posted four months ago during the Cannes Film Festival.

Fine is calling it “yet another change-up in the Woody Allen approach – a drama played with comedy rhythms”that “continually surprises you by coming back to earth, rather than launching into the heavens with laughter and romance.” And I described it as “a mildly amusing, somewhat chilly film with no piercing performances or dramatic highlights even, as if everything and everyone is on a regulator of some kind. And yet the undertone has a persistent misanthropic flavor. And it leaves you with a kind of ‘uh-huh, okay’ feeling at the end.”

“The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence,” Fine writes, “but, in Woody Allen’s world, it’s not merely an illusion. Rather, it’s the thread that starts to unravel one’s current reality.” He describes Stranger is “an occasionally comic drama about the terrors and pitfalls of dissatisfaction,” but says at another point that “there’s little [in the film] that tries to be funny.

“Every character in this film is unhappy in some way with his or her current situation — but in seeking what seems to be a better solution, they instead find even more unhappiness.”

“Allen is etching portraits in denial and distraction. Each of the characters, unhappy with what they’ve got, believe that the thing they yearn for will erase the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that they feel. Thinking about what might be is the real distraction – the daydream that makes life bearable.

“But each makes the mistake of actually attempting to live that dream — of believing that, if they turn fantasy into reality, it will live up to the way they imagined it would be.”

I wrote that Stranger is “about people making terrible or lamentable choices and missing opportunities and hoping for something more or better and struggling with inevitable limitations. In short, it’s about what a sad bunch of clueless, desperate and delusional schmucks we all are.

“It therefore has a certain integrity. But it feels middling or, truth be told, minor. It has irony, obviously, but not the delicious Match Point kind. There’s a solemn God’s-eye perspective at work here, but there’s no kick to it. We’re driven by longing and dreams but things don’t always work out. We want what we want but we get what fate doles out. Plop.

“I don’t want to go out on a limb, but You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger doesn’t deliver my idea of what most moviegoers are looking for, or are likely to enjoy. I’d have to be goaded into seeing it again. It’s grade-C Woody….sorry.

“That means it’s a bit less than Cassandra’s Dream, slightly better than Scoop or Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Anything Else, and in roughly the same realm as Another Woman, September, Shadows and Fog and A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy. Then again (and I say this almost every time I review one of his films) a grade-C Woody is like a B-minus or even a B along the general curve.”