Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen
Produced by: Letty Aronson, Lucy Darwin and Gareth Wiley
Starring: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the film, Match Point
For many years, Woody Allen shot his films in New York, showing neurotic characters discussing that they "would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member", quoting the old Groucho Marx quote. With Match Point
, the clarinet-playing, Marx-quoting Allen moved to a totally different city: London, England. And thus, there is a change of pace from nervous, neurotic individuals to confident people looking to climb the social ladder. As typically happens when an American filmmaker puts his lens on Britain, audiences are treated to the upper-crust of English society and for Match Point
, it works. Match Point
also lacks the feel of a Woody Allen film, which makes it even more fascinating as he allows the actors to work on their terms, reading his written lines with enough of their own feel. And particularly what sets this film apart from previous Woody fare is the darkness of the production. While he has tackled dark films before with the Bergman-inspired Interiors
and Crimes and Misdeamenors
(which this film borrows heavily from), never has he attempted to make a psychological thriller. Match Point
isn't like, say, The Silence of the Lambs
, but it does have a suspenseful feel lurking around it.
Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a tennis instructor who wants to go higher up in society and he gets his chance when he is introduced to Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), a member of an upper-crust family. Immediately, Chris starts to make his way, slowly becoming a member of the family by falling for Tom's sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and attending the family's house in the country. In the meantime, he also meets Tom's girlfriend, a struggling actress from Colorado called Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson). He becomes sexually attracted to Nola and the two of them have a short affair. Chris marries Chloe and Nola moves back to America, but as soon as she returns to England, the affair starts once again. Chris is soon forced to continually lie to keep his affair as secret as possible and not be thrown out of his new job and perks that the Hewetts have given him. Now, he decides to end the affair the only way he can think of: murder.
As mentioned before, Woody Allen's films portray their protagonists as neurotic beings, worried that they've done the wrong thing. With Match Point
, there is a 180 degree turn with the character of Chris, a confidant who does not feel guilty in the least for cheating on his wife and once he murders, he does not sweat a brow even when being interrogated by the police. Throughout the film, he lies his way out of possible punishment, not because he is necessarily a good liar but because of pure luck. This is unlike the game of tennis, which requires both skill and luck. Chris may be skilled at tennis, but not murder, as he "committed the murder, just begging to be caught." In another twist on tennis, Chris 'serves' a piece of evidence, but it fails to land on the other side and into the river. Yet, by pure luck, somebody else finds it and is soon framed by somebody who never even met him.
Chris's sex life with Chloe wilts throughout the course of the film as he spends more and more time with Nola, who he has a bigger attraction for, yet doesn't divorce Chloe to his own greediness. He will lose the fancy car, driver and apartment if he does so and if lying is the only way to keep himself wealthy, so be it. This is all effectively portrayed in the performance by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who embeds Chris with two sides. With the Hewetts, he is the good boy being as un-offensive as possible, so to be admitted into the family circle. With Nola, his darker side creeps out and he keeps going back for more. These differences are also played out very well with Emily Mortimer playing Chloe as innocent and apologetic and Scarlett Johansson injecting Nola with sexual tension and constantly over-bearing Chris. Chris believes his affair is something small, but Nola thinks differently. Johansson's scene where she catches Chris on a fib (the only person in the film to hundred percent do so) and pronounces him as a "liar" has been criticised by some circles. However, the scene and dialogue within do work because of the tiredness growing in the character.
Woody Allen's transition from New York to London worked perfectly as he made his best film in many years. Even those who complain that "he doesn't make funny movies anymore" will like Match Point
. Those who don't like him at all will also be surprised as it feels more like a Jonathan Demme production rather than a film from the director of Annie Hall
. A fascinating entry in his filmography, Match Point
is certainly a film that while it would not have you on the edge of your seat, it will make you sit thoughtfully without complaining about bad service and small portions.
Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers have a deadly affair in Woody Allen's Match Point.