- Woody Allen
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Thursday, January 19, 2006
Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a former tennis pro who opts for a different life by staying in London and becoming an instructor. Thatís how he meets and befriends Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), a rich socialite who introduces him to his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Soon Chris and Chloe become an item, notwithstanding that Chris is dangerously smitten with Tomís girlfriend, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), a sexy struggling American actress.
Match Point starts with a fantastic sequence that says something about luck by using a tennis metaphor. The sequence is clever enough when we see it at that point, but without spoiling anything, it takes a much grander meaning by the time the movie is over. It works so well that Iím going to use the word genius to describe the way writer/director Woody Allen structures his movie, using this metaphor as a way of resuming the movieís theme while also being pivotal to a certain plot point which certainly comes out of nowhere.
Allen gets rid of some of his usual trademarks and the result is gratifying. He moves his setting from New York to London, he doesnít have the central character impersonate him and he tackles a genre that is tricky to find in his filmography. Match Point starts as a relationship drama, but by the 2/3 mark it adds another brilliant layer to transform his story into a relationship drama/thriller. The change is subtle, believable and absolutely nerve-wracking. Allen does an excellent job by fooling us into believing we know where the movie is going. Mark my words, we donít.
It also helps that Allen hits all the right notes in how he builds his characters. Even though I have nothing in common with Chris, I could totally identify with him, for his actions and thoughts are entirely human. Hereís a guy who has everything going for him, a nice girlfriend and a terrific new job at one of his father-in-lawís companies, yet heís totally obsessed with another woman. Heís not a bad person and he knows heís getting into trouble, but he canít help it. I especially loved the scene in which he suddenly changes his mind and wants to go see a movie because he knows Nola will be there. He doesnít even know where this is going, but heís hooked! Thereís a point where we must all choose between what we want in our lives and what we donít. Sometimes that decision is excruciating, but it has to be doneÖ and faced. Yet thereís another factor that we barely take into consideration. We might want this or that, but the universe works in a different level altogether, and luck has a lot to do with what ultimately happens in our lives. Thatís why life is so unpredictable. We may want something, but itís not always up to us.
I like how Allen reinvents himself here. His movies are always character-driven, but you wouldnít guess he was behind the camera in this one judging by his previous work. This is one of Allenís best, easily. And there are snippets here and there that expose him, like his use of classic opera, a great analogy to the story he is telling. Even on the technical side, Allen switched photographers, and Remi Afaradesinís work is startling.
A favorite scene? There are plenty, but I loved Chris and Nola going for a coffee and the conversation that ensues. I also thought the scene in which they meet for the first time is fantastic. And the last half hour of the movie is beyond description.
I do have to say that some situations seemed a little forced to me. A character is introduced that serves the sole purpose of giving Chris someone to open his heart to and nothing more. Nola has a scene outside Chrisís office building that was a little over-the-top for my taste. Yet Iím nip-ticking, it all works wonderfully as a whole.
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is an actor Iíve admired for years, but somehow heís gone under the radar for many. Thatís about to change, for his performance here is unforgettable. We feel exactly what heís feeling at all times, and thatís a hard task for any actor to accomplish. Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand, is a knockout, both literally and figuratively. Sheís sexy, intense, innocent, strange and vulnerable all at the same time. The role also gives her the opportunity to play a femme fatale variation, and she knocks it out of the park. It also helps that both Jonathan and Scarlett are sex on legs, so the combination is explosive. Nice support is lent by Matthew Goode and Emily Mortimer, but also by Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton as their parents.
An impressive achievement, one that stays with you long after the movie is over.
ďYouíre going to do very well for yourself unless you blow it.Ē
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Other reviews of Match Point (2005): Groucho
- Woody Allen
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Monday, January 30, 2006
The film, related to tennis more in the sense that it compares life to a tennis match rather than being about tennis or filled with tennis references, is beautiful from start. Thereís a quick introduction, so poetic itís breathtaking, about a horrific moment in a tennis match where everything depends on luck. I wonít say why this introduction is so important but I assure you youíll remember it later on. It will haunt you.
The story is about a bright, young tennis teacher, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), who befriends one of his students, Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), and gets invited to the opera by him. Tom introduces Chris to his wealthy family: his parents Alec (Brian Cox) and Eleanor (Penelope Wilton), and his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Soon, something starts between Chris and Chloe, something cute if not too passionate. This is shaken the moment Chris meets Tomís American girlfriend Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), whoís so sexy itís unbearable.
Chris and Nola eventually get their own relationship started, not ending the other two that relate them; Chris, for one, is not very willing to finish his own with Chloe, as Alec quickly involves him in business as a sort of gratification for making his daughter happy. But there couldnít be a more boring relationship than the one Chris has with Chloe; disguised as a loving partner, all she cares about is to follow the paradigm of forming a picture-perfect family. And sheís not half as exciting as Nola, now thatís for sure. Everyone in the story is either selfish or evil, or both. And thatís whatís most credible about it.
The film evolves as a more or less conventional romance, not a typical Woody Allen since itís not comedic (though it has its moments), but full of recognizable dialogue that not always rings true, except in the Allen universe. Mostly no outstanding stuff to the story, but still a nice show given the stylish direction, sumptuous London locations, fine performances (especially by Johansson), and some of the hottest make-out scenes Iíve seen in my time, which feature little to no fledge óand no intercourseó but still make you feel like you had sex yourself.
But then something happens. SomethingÖ big, something unexpected. It starts forming a few scenes earlier, but you canít bear to believe itís really gonna happen, yet it does. You knew itíd happen, but itís still a shocker. And itís still unexpected, even as itís going on, because itís not just a simple thing, but a whole succession of events. From that moment on, the film turns from melodrama into thriller, one of the most heart-pounding Iíve seen in a while, and one that keeps the style, the glare, the finesse of the procedures so far. Little of what happens could be catalogued as action or suspense, seen coldly, and thatís what makes it so special: it all seems so right, but we know itís not, that it completely kills. I sat on the edge of my seat during this excellent second half (or is it shorter than that?). I was just amazed.
Only after my heart started working again (once the film was over) could I realize all the beauty that was involved in the process. Woody features opera as a predominant element and then turns his work into an opera of sorts, a tragedy of that kind, using classic masterpieces as background. Then he even ventures into Shakespeare territory, and pulls it off like only the Bard could (daring! inspiring!). And finally thereís the tennis reference, that strike of luck, the one little moment that defines someoneís fate. Wow.
Bravo to every performer, especially the three leads. Allen did it again indeed, and he did it in style. What a nice, fine film. What an elegant show. Gotta love it. Gotta see it again!
ďNo one's ever asked for their money back.Ē
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Other reviews of Match Point (2005): Morris