Match Point

match_pointReview Date: May 19, 2005

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Producers: Letty Aronson

Scarlett Johansson as Nola
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Chris
Emily Mortimer as Chloe

Genre: Drama

A poor Irish lad meets up with a particularly well-off British family and starts to date, and get heavily involved, with their daughter. But when he meets the American girlfriend of her brother, he’s smitten by her as well, and it isn’t long before he’s swapping bedsheets like they’re going out of style. What follows is the tale of a man caught between different worlds and his confusion, and ultimate decision, about what to do. A British Woody Allen movie ensues? Fascinating.

Sweet! The classic Woody Allen is back and in solid form with a film that completely deviates from the auteur’s usual New York high-brow Jewish characters and banter (much of which had become redundant and quite unoriginal through the 90s), with a picture set entirely in London, England and filled with British characters, save for one American, the lovely Scarlett Johansson. The only thing that I kept thinking through this film’s first half hour was how I couldn’t believe that I was actually watching a “Woody Allen movie”. Instead, it almost felt like something out of Robert Altman’s GOSFORD PARK. But once things got settled, and you looked closely enough, you realized that many of Allen’s trademarks were actually all over this one as well, save for the fact that it was set in a different environment. Consider the neuroses of the lead characters, the high-brow conversations, the off-the-cuff quotes about Dostoevsky and the like. Even the film’s soundtrack and the camera shots felt like classic Woody after a while. Heck, I’ll even go as far as to say that the way he shot the streets of London, looked a lot like he would usually shoot the streets of New York. But Allen-isms aside, at the end of the day, you want to know if the film works, if it entertains, if it makes you think and if it makes a good point, and for all of the above, I could honestly say “yes”. I’m very proud to say that this film actually reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. It’s yet another classic Woody Allen storyline focusing on one man and his relationships with the women in his life, particularly a woman with whom he gets married, and of course…his mistress. It goes without saying that things get a little sticky in the man’s life, and much like in real life, the ending is never pretty in these sorts of situations.

The thing that sets this film apart from all the others though, is its emphasis on the importance of “luck” in life and love (one of the characters mentions this early on in the film, and you see how it plays a great part in the film later on), its surprising plot turns, many of which felt like the film’s title reference to a tennis match (back and forth, back and forth) and the ultimate difference between love and lust. I really enjoyed this film because much like Allen’s past great works, it took the time to establish its characters, show them off as real human beings (Brian Cox was particularly good here), establish their world, environment and interactions, and ultimately overburden us with their thoughts and moral decisions, all of which we, as an audience, also feel free to consider for our own lives. The film does run a touch long, and is definitely one of Allen’s darker and less humorous pieces (although it definitely still has its own brand of humor here and there), but ultimately, it entertained me all the way through with an ending that I definitely did not see coming, a great analogy to opera, Greek tragedies and the like, and actors all bringing their A-game to the screen. Kudos to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, in particular, who is the lead emphasis in the film and who ultimately has to go through many emotional swings in the movie, and pulls them all off, wonderfully. Johansson is also very good, but let’s face it, she can play this “come hither” character in her sleep at this point. I know I sound redundant when I say this myself, but great breasts too! All in all, I was elated to sit down and watch this film as my first screening at the Cannes Film Festival, and even more excited to see that Woody Allen had finally decided to try to alter his uninteresting cinematic path of the last decade, and try something so different. Good stuff, dude…let’s hope that this is the start of yet another potent creative streak in your filmography.

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