2005 - R - 124 Mins.
|Director: Woody Allen|
|Producer: Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins, Stephen Tenenbaum|
|Written By: Woody Allen|
|Starring: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton |
|Review by: Ben Samara
|Official Site: www.dreamworks.com/matchpoint/|
‘Match Point,’ is a surprising deviation from Woody Allen’s previous efforts. It’s more classic Hitchcock than Allen, which is in many ways refreshing. Allen’s work in recent years – including last spring’s ‘Melinda and Melinda’ – has left fans wanting better. If nothing else, ‘Match Point’ proves that he is back on track.
The film does bear some similarities to Allen’s 1989 drama ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ but vague comparisons are where it ends. This one stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Chris Wilton, a former tennis pro making the transition from his home in Ireland to England. Chris longs to make a better life for himself after giving up tennis, but he’s short on funds and contacts. He scores a job teaching tennis at a high-end country club where he meets Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), a wealthy Brit who introduces him to the upper crest of British society.
Tom also introduces Chris to his sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), and the two hit it off immediately. Chris quickly establishes himself as a favorite within the Hewitt family and he receives all the perks, including an unlimited supply of cash and a cushy job in business from Chloe’s father.
It all seems to be going well for Chris, until he runs into Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) at a Hewitt family gathering. An American actress, Nola is also running from her home, seeking refuge in England. The two share a common bond, and they have an immediate connection. They flirt and tease each other until we abruptly find out that Nola is actually Tom’s fiancée, thus setting up a complicated love triangle that has a profound effect on each of the characters involved.
To go on from there would be to reveal too much. If your thinking that ‘Match Point’ is eerily similar to 2004’s ‘Closer,’ though, you’re only partly correct. Some of the plot points are comparable, but ‘Match Point’ is everything that ‘Closer’ could have and should have been. Allen’s film is emotionally gripping and exhilarating, benefiting from a strong script and solid performances.
Allen’s screenplay flows quickly and flawlessly for the first two thirds, spoiled only by a slightly overblown, plot hole-filled ending that could leave moviegoers unsatisfied. Overall, though, Allen’s authentic dialogue and thoroughly developed characters more than make up for any shortcomings the last third may present. He does an excellent job saying what needs to be said and nothing more, crafting more of an implied back-story rather than spelling out every little detail. This helps move the story along swiftly
Rhys-Meyers has a ton of film credits, but he has never really been able to break out as a star. He played Elvis in a TV miniseries this year and had supporting roles in 2002’s ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and 2004’s Alexander, but ‘Match Point’ is his first real chance to show what he can do on a big stage. His character is a fish out of water, forced to weigh the merits of being happy in love with the lifestyle benefits of sticking with his high-class contacts. He doesn’t want to leave his secure life, but does he really want to be miserable and bored for the rest of his life? Rhys-Meyers does an outstanding job conveying Chris’ internal struggle as he tries to figure out a resolution to the problem. This is why we relate to the character instead of just thinking he’s a lowlife.
Personally, I don’t get the love for Scarlett Johansson. Yes, she’s gorgeous, but the girl has a hard time acting. It’s not that she does a horrific job; it’s just that she’s clearly the weakest link of the four main players. Yet, she seems to be getting all the awards attention. Emily Mortimer’s work as Chloe – the longing wife who has no idea about her husband’s indiscretions – is much more convincing and worthy of attention. This year, Mortimer also starred in the grossly under-seen and underrated ‘Dear Frankie,’ a small independent film that will – like this performance – be overlooked come Oscar time. It’s too bad.
Compared to Allen’s more recent films, ‘Match Point’ is a masterpiece. Overall, though, it’s simply a solid movie. The drama is tense and the story of obsession, fate and luck is a convincing one. At least Allen fans will finally have a enjoyable film to hold them over until he releases his next project, ‘Scoop,’ where Johansson will return alongside Hugh Jackman.