Match Point Reviews
Viewed this on 5/5/16
Perhaps the best Woody Allen film I have ever seen, its not a kind of film that I had expected from Allen. Through it starts off as a romantic film, it soon builds up tension and becomes a thriller. Moreover, it takes a U-Turn whenever you expect it to make a predictable turn. The acting is also terrific.
2005's "Match Point," written and directed by Woody Allen, is an immersive study of one of those aforementioned excuses of a man, but less glorified are his immoral ways. As he's an everyman and not an elevated cinematic figure, we're riveted in regards to just how long he can maintain his narcissistic cool, how long he can continue on the path of a viper before he's caught and spat upon.
A morally tangled drama "Match Point" is, and, as the years go by, it seems to increasingly announce itself as being among Allen's most seminal works. Not because I like it as much as "Hannah and Her Sisters" or "Bullets Over Broadway," mind you, but because it betrays his usual comedic comfort zone in trade of seriousness only seen rarely in a career of humanistic, usually inviting gems. Over Allen's decades long career, we've seen him try his hand at the dramatic through such chamber pieces as 1978's "Interiors" and 2007's "Cassandra's Dream" (though I'm sure some would argue that his '80s masterpieces were oftentimes earnest, too), but "Match Point" marks (and still marks) the first time in which his touch isn't as blatantly obvious, his trademark humor having all but vanished.
It clearly touches upon themes discussed in his 1989 masterwork "Crimes and Misdemeanors," but with a cast mostly from the United Kingdom, and with dialogue more understated than neurotic, it's unlike anything Allen has ever done - further imposing is that he was seventy-years-old in 2005, an age where many filmmakers aren't so sure what to do with themselves anymore and therefore stoop to filler.
"Match Point" stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Chris Wilton, a small-time, London-based tennis coach reeling from rejection in the professional area of the sport. With most of his once promising career goals disintegrated, he is currently making a living teaching the rich how to be their very own Serena Williams. He's comfortable, but something, perhaps a purpose, is missing from his life.
A chance lesson with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the son of a successful businessman (Brian Cox), prompts a fast friendship, introduction to the affluent family quick and painless. There's an attraction between Chris and Tom's sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer). A flimsy courtship ensues, but not long after does Chris meet Tom's fiancee, Nola Rice (a spotless Scarlett Johansson), a sultry, blond American attempting to break into the acting industry. It's clear that Nola likes Chris more than she likes Tom, with Chris liking Nola more than he likes Chloe, but both, not wanting to incite any bad blood within the Hewett family, allow for magnetism to combust into a brief erotic encounter, nothing more.
Chris accepts that his affair with Nola is not meant to last, and so he marries Chloe, though we sense he's doing so out of the promise of comfort, not love. Days later, though, Tom breaks up with Nola; we can feel Chris recoil as he realizes that he could have had a chance with her had patience been a virtue of his being. But romantic hang-ups cannot be dwelled upon now that he's a newlywed. For now, he'll have to deal with Chloe, who almost immediately declares that she'd like to have a baby as soon as possible - she has nothing to lose. Chris doesn't feel so ready, but agrees to her wishes, the impregnation process quick to start but not so prosperous in longterm success.
So we'll call it bad luck when Nola comes back to the U.K. months later, running into Chris just as his frustrations with his wife begin to grow unbearable. An affair kicks off, but it's bound to have a similar ending to a cynical film noir. The life of the other woman is often a doomed one, after all.
But I won't say more, as some of "Match Point's" biggest pleasures derive from the way its storyline builds to a breaking point of horrendous unpredictability. It's a psychological thriller in which all characters act selfishly and questionably, their desires coming first in even the most baleful of situations. At first, Chris appears to be a typical male lead, but, as he later descends into detrimental behavior that suggests that he was born to be bad, our preconceived notions regarding his character are thrown away. Nola is a temptress that knows it, unafraid to push buttons; Chloe is a nice but otherwise spoiled rich girl who is distinctly aware of what she wants more than what she loves; and Tom, maybe the only individual in the film that doesn't reek of self-obsession, is so concerned with what others think of him that we sense that he doesn't know himself.
Such knotty characters are nothing new within Allen's filmography, but unfamiliar is overarching sexiness, dialogue that presents itself as slippery and noiry and not necessarily a reflection of Allen, and moral ambiguities that ring as much darker than anything he has ever offered. And to go out on a limb in the way Allen does with "Match Point" is nothing short of risky, all the more provoking considering his age and his iconhood. But a modern cinematic master can only make the most of the challenges inflicted upon himself, and "Match Point" is a subversion worthy of immediate viewing.
A young, working-class coach at a prestigious tennis club, Chris Wilton (played by Jonathan Rhys Myers), forms a relationship with Chloe Hewett (Emily Mortimer), the sister of Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), one of the members at the club. The Hewetts are very wealthy - their father owns a large company - and the relationship with Chloe should be Chris' ticket to the easy life.
However, he meets Tom's American fiance, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), and is immediately smitten. Due to Nola being engaged to Tom, nothing really happens and Chris marries Chloe. Then Tom and Nola break off their engagement and Chris starts a relationship with Nola, with disastrous consequences...
A rare murder-drama from Woody Allen. His first of the genre and certainly his darkest movie. Quite a departure for him: while most renowned as a comedy writer-director, even his dramas of the past had a lightness to them. This is nothing like anything he has made before, or since, and is fantastic.
Great plot. A slow-burner that starts as a harmless relationship drama and gets darker and deadlier the further it goes. This is not to say that it is dull to start off: even before it ramps up it is a great character study.
Some excellent twists towards the end with a superb ending. Quite profound too.
Solid performances all round. Nobody puts a foot wrong. Emily Mortimer is a tad irritating as the mousy, clingy Chloe, but that is probably intentional on Woody Allen's part.
Reminds me so much of "Crimes and Misdemeanors", now I feel like I wanna see the latter again.