We all have our Dark Side, to say the Least!
Good thing I love my wife and have no interest in straying. What a disaster I'd be. It sort of makes me wonder where Woody Allen is going with this entire unlikely libertine and deceptively virile Casanova character that he's been writing all these decades. Lord knows he's had enough adultery in his real life, so he knows what he's writing about, but one can't consistently state that he's "glorifying" the act of cuckolding one's spouse.
Match Point is yet another of Woody Allen's films concerning just such a story, but that's just about where the similarities end. It's interesting to note that within the first five minutes of Match Point three people walked out and didn't return to the theatre. Ten more minutes saw the egress of five more. Those expecting Scenes from a Mall or A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy would be better served by not buying that ticket in the first place! In fact, this film much more closely resembles Malle's Damage than Allen's Annie Hall, with a bit of Altman's The Player, Dickens' Great Expectations and Hitchcock's Psycho thrown in for good measure. Yes, this one is funny in parts, but in a very BLACKLY comical type of way. Yes, this is the direction Allen has been heading toward with his last few pictures, but who could expect a psychological thriller to come from the director of Take the Money and Run!
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is Chris Wilton a struggling player on the London tennis circuit who pays the bills by giving lessons to the idle rich and the terribly terrible. When his friend Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) introduces Chris to his family, he soon falls for Chris' sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and begins to "get in good" with their parents (Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton). However, soon Chris is introduced to Tom's incredibly beautiful fiancée Nola Rice (a struggling American actress played by the successful American actress Scarlett Johansson) and the attraction is undeniable and magnetic. It's a credit to Allen's fantastic directing that the silence seems to speak much louder than the prim British upper-crust propriety that they've immersed themselves in.
Needless to say Chris is successful in his pursuit of Nola, and their one coupling is anything but satiating to our Irish Tennis kid. In fact, as Tom moves on from Nola to another girl Match Point takes a turn for the desperate, following Chris' search for this beauty, all the while balancing a new wife and a new career courtesy of Daddy Hewett himself!
But in the "be careful what you wish for" category, it's amazing to see just how fast the tables turn for Chrissy-Poo and Nola-Bear. Slowly but surely as they pull a big, fat Anne of the Thousand Days out of their hats, Match Point goes from mere black comedy to perfect dark thriller. You see it all from inside, of course, which makes the thrill all the more real for the audience (those who remained) as we witness acts that we both deplore and encore. Just which side of the net the ball will fall on might keep you at the edge of your seat.
For all the brilliance that went into Allen's script (it was, after all, nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar), it's hard not to find a lot of this a bit familiar. True you wouldn't expect to see these pieces all in the same movie, but the experienced moviegoer will nevertheless recognize the other films this came from... some of them Woody's own. However, what golden scotch tape Allen has used on this script. In many ways this amalgam beats out every one of its parts for a sum that is altogether Oscar-Worthy. It's all the more striking when midway through the final act a few things transpire that trump the perfection with a blemish of illogic.
Woody Allen's directing, on the other hand, is flawless. He evokes performances that weave a mind-boggling tapestry! A tapestry whose scenery can only be truly appreciated with a few big steps backward. Where a big bang would do, Allen gives us a whisper, and where an over-expressive shock will do, Allen makes us think. It's very uncomfortable in Allen's thriller, but it's unquestionably worth your time, whether you've found that you've enjoyed yourself or not.
Yes, this is a thoroughly British film, subtle, sensual and scary, with the only thing truly missing being some visibility to Scarlett Johansson's goodies (she and Woody are very careful to make you beg for an eye-full when you only get a peek). Woody Allen has gone against his own grain, worked against type and delivered a brilliant film (and not for the first time either). Four Stars out of Five for Match Point, the aptly titled, deeply metaphorical and brilliantly pieced together film by Woody Allen. It was hard not giving it an extra half-a-star there, kiddies, but Match Point comes off just a little more as a collection of great moments from other films than it does an innovative original work. However, see how original Woody Allen makes it feel as director. Yes, Woody Allen has a certain type of film and a certain type of character that he puts within his films (either played by himself or another doing a perfect aping of him). Match Point proves that Woody can do just about anything... so long as that "anything" includes some dude cheating on his wife. I guess he has to play to type somewhere. See you in the next fiduciary reel!
Man, you're lucky to get just ONE woman.
Or just one review for that matter. Luckily, my reviews require no fidelity, so click here and be as optically promiscuous as you feel!
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