Film Review: Match Point

I’ve been a fan of Woody Allen’s work for a long time. I think he’s a filmmaker who, on a bad day, makes films that are infinitely better than the vast majority of filmmakers currently working in industry.  For the most part, Woody has been making a film every year for as long as I remember.  The fact that his output is so prolific for a guy whose on-screen characters come across as paralyzed by modernity is a testament that Woody’s on-screen persona is, in many ways, very different from his off-screen persona – Soon Yi/Mia/Woody stuff excluded, of course.  

Usually, I don’t miss his movies when they hit the screens, but I missed Match Point when it was originally released. J and I watched it on DVD and it was quite a surprise. I’m not a fan of Woody’s “serious” films, but this one was so well executed, that I forgot I was watching a film that was written and directed by Woody Allen.

Here’s a summary of the film I grabbed (and slightly revised) from some kind soul who posted it on IMDB:

The Irish former professional tennis player Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) from the lower class gets a job as tennis instructor in an upper class club in London. Chris becomes close to his student, Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), who introduces him to his British upper class family – including Tom’s sister Chloe, who immediately falls in love with him. The ambitious Chris starts a relationship with Chloe, but has an immediate attraction for Tom’s fiancée, an American aspirant actress Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson). Chris pursues her in a kind of understated British way until he can’t take it anymore and makes a bold move on her after Nola feuds with her financee’s mother and leaves the house to “get away” for a few moments to collect her thoughts and emotions.  After their sexual encounter, Chris decides to marry Chloe and climbs to a high position in a company of the Hewett’s family, while Tom breaks his engagement with Nola. Months later, when Chris meets Nola by chance, his obsession with her surfaces again and they resume their affair with Chris promising to leave Chloe to make a life with Nola. When Nola gets pregnant and presses him to make a decision, he’s forced to decide between the financial advantages of his marriage and the woman he wants for his companion.

What I enjoyed about this film was the way Woody avoided the stock “neurotic” character in this film – well, for the most part anyway.  As Nola’s character becomes less an object of obsession and more of a human, she exhibits the typical Woody Allen ticks (i.e., Popping pills to deal with anxiety, becoming argumentative to the point of annoyance, insecure, and demanding).  But before things spin into the usual Woody Allen universe, the first three quarters of the film is much more subtle ride. The subtext of Irish/English classism is present throughout the film and it’s very apparent in the relationship between Chris and Chloe. He treats her with such deference and cannot show much passion in their relationship that he slowly starts to suffocate in the world of wealth he has married into.  However, since he can’t quite figure out what to do with his life, he realizes he can’t take the risk of being in a passionate (but directionless) relationship over the economic security of his present condition. His solution to his conflict was quite extreme and I won’t give it away in case you want to see the film.  But if you want to be surprised by a Woody Allen film, put Match Point on your Netflix cue. The film was a bit long (over 2 hours) but overall it was quite a gripping story that would have been excellent if Woody trimmed a half hour off the running time.



Next up:  The Mix Six for Friday!

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