MOVIE: Do you ever sit and watch a movie and try and guess the ending? Do you ever try and guess what direction a film is going? Well, I dare you to try and guess this film's outcome, go ahead, I dare you. Match Point is Woody Allen's character study as to how luck plays a role in our lives. Match Point opens appropriately enough with a sideline view of a tennis ball going back and forth across the net in slow motion. The narrator is the voice of the main character, Chris, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. He describes the game of tennis as luck, that once in a while the ball will hit the net. The frame then freezes as the ball hits the net, and he describes that luck determines which side of the net the ball will fall. Chris, who is an all-pro tennis player, decides to step down from playing and takes up teaching for awhile while he decides what he wants to do with his life. His latest student, Tom, shares a passion of opera with him and invites him to his family's balcony seats. There he meets Tom's sister, and he falls in love with her. However, he soon meets Nola, a beautiful woman who lures him in with her eyes. He soon finds out that Nola is Tom's soon to be wife. This is the film as it seems. Chris begins to have an affair with Nola, and after she breaks up with Tom they continue to romance without the knowledge of Tom's family. He gets married to Tom's sister and they are now expecting a child, his father in-law lands him a dream job at one of his corporations. Yet, it is still the lure of the temptress that calls to him. Woddy Allen sets up a dilemma for our main character that raises the question between love and lust, and luck and fate. While you may expect this film to be lustful drama, you have no idea where Allen takes you next. The brilliant aspect of the film, is that there is no score. I hate films without a score, I think music is 50% of a film's emotional effect on the audience, but where there is no original score there is opera. Allen uses opera to structure the scenes, since it is the one thing that ties Chris to the family. The opera changes in tone and emotion as the scene does, so it works to perfection. The film is interesting, you may find yourself debating about what happens in the end, but you realize it all ties in with what this movie is about. The film plot is something that you'd expect from Hitchcock, and it is a savory one at that. The movie is entertaining and thought provoking even if it doesn't seem plausible at times.
ACTING: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers does a superb job even though I think some of his dialogue seems stilted, but he's not to blame for that. He does a fantatsic job with what Woody Allen gives him. Scarlett Johansson is perfectly cast as the temptress, and she even gives her somewhat commercial character a human side as well. Great acting, even though the dialogue is stilted at times.
BOTTOM LINE: The film will lead you one way only to make a sharp left and take you where you wouldn't expect. You have no idea what's coming, and I dare you to guess the ending before it starts to unfold. The film is intelligent and an interesting watch, but it really doesn't boast any technical highlights. Cinematography is nothing to get excited over, but it's one doozy of a screenplay.
MATCH POINT is considered by some to be a departure for Woody Allen, due largely to its setting and its few oddities that can sometimes be an annoying Allen trademark. Yet it is also a well acted and well developed film that would be reminiscent for some of films such as ANNIE HALL. In order to know for sure, a person has to see it to decide and it's certainly worth seeing.
The film tells the story of Chris Wilton, and Irish born tennis player who realizes there's only so far his game will take him, so he takes a job as a tennis pro hoping to make a connection with London's upper class. His charm and ability ensure this will happen. He meets a client Tom Hewett, the son of a powerful business leader. Wilton marries Tom's sister, endears himself to his in-laws, and has a passionate affair with Nola, Tom's fiancé then later ex-girlfriend. Much of the film focuses on the ways in which Wilton goes to great lengths to cover up his affair.
The actors fit their roles well. Chris Wilton is played masterfully by Irish born Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Rhys Meyers has the look of someone who would fit into British upper class circles, and he comes across less as an imposter and more as a climber. Rhys Meyers, who is familiar to many who saw the film BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, again an Irish lad trying to make it in England, albeit in very different circles, demonstrates he's a believable and versatile actor. Scarlet Johansson plays the American actress Nola, likewise gives a phenomenal performance. The Hewett Family: Brian Cox as father Alec, Penelope Wilton as mother Eleanor, Mathew Goode as Tom and Emily Mortimer as Chris' wife Chloe seem like British aristocrats, oblivious to all that is happening round them, yet believable too. Perhaps one of the films strengths is the fact that the Hewetts are oblivious to Chris' scheming and climbing, and that Chris is not a character whose controlled by ambition as much as his desire not to loose the good life he's created for himself.
My guess is that since MATCH POINT was nominated for several Golden Globe Awards and will likely be nominated for Academy Awards too, people will take notice of this film. One of our local newspapers praised MATCH POINT because it was a Woody Allen film that was not typical Allen fare. Another paper praised it because it is so Woody Allen, but set in London rather than New York. The long and the short of it is, chances are you'll enjoy this film whether you like Woody Allen or not.
on July 26, 2014
The word hideous barely begins to describe just how diabolically bad this offering from Woody Allen actually is. A staler film I have yet to see. How this z-grade farce got financed is undoubtedly one of the 21st century's most perplexing enigmas. The story is perhaps the weakest part of this failed enterprise and is at the level of an offering from a creatively impoverished Mills and Boon author going through a dry period. Many of the characters are so ridiculously unbelievable that I entertained the notion that Allen must have been in solitary confinement during the decades prior to the writing of this trite nonsense.
Additionally, Allen's directing is almost as bad as the script and is devoid of style and flair. Everything is presented in a bland, matter-of-fact manner that is reminiscent of a low-rent government information film. Awful.
As for the acting, well there is clearly a great deal of talent here that is utterly wasted. A bit like having Laurence Olivier starring in an Easy-Off BAM advert, only worse. The same however cannot be said for the lead 'actor' (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who is stultifyingly dreadful in this role and miraculously manages to create a character that is so unconvincing that it fails to even qualify as one-dimensional. Something of a world first and one which surely merits some form of official recognition. The fact that the character he plays is a risible cretin only compounds the problem.
It is clear to me that Woody Allen, for all his many, considerable talents, is totally out of his depth when attempting a film like this. One can only hope that there are no more on the way. Indeed I find it incredibly hard to reconcile the fact that Allen is capable of creating a film as wonderful as Manhattan, which was beautifully written, acted and directed, yet is guilty of churning out this vacuous drivel. I guess we all have our bad days.
Finally, the reviewers who have likened this nonsense to the best of Hitchcock are certainly on a different wavelength to me and unfortunately I cannot take their comments seriously. Such comments are akin to saying that the sound of a fart down a drainpipe is as beautiful as Debussy's The Girl with the Flaxen Hair.
Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a former tennis pro, takes a job at an exclusive club in London, teaching the well-to-do. There, he meets Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the son of a rich businessman and they strike up a friendship. Tom learns of Chris' love for opera and offers him an extra ticket for the next show allowing Chris to meet the entire Hewett family; sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer, "Dear Frankie"), "Poppa" Alec (Brian Cox) and mother (Penelope Wilton, "Pride and Prejudice"). Chloe and Chris plan a date and soon become inseparable leading her to ask Poppa to find a position for Chris in one of his companies. Alec wholeheartedly agrees and Chris is soon the head of a division, spending weekends at the Hewett country estate and shagging Chloe on his sleeper sofa. Then, Chris meets Nola (Scarlet Johannson), Tom's American fiancée. They flirt and begin an affair. Chris and Chloe are soon married and move into a fantastic loft on the South Bank. But as Chris becomes more and more comfortable in his life with Chloe, and her father's money, his relationship with Nola spins out of control, threatening his newfound security.
This is just a small portion of the plot for the new film "Match Point". I remember clearly the first time I saw the trailer and the reaction when it was revealed as a Woody Allen film. There were a couple of audible "whoa"s in the audience. Everything in the trailer was different from anything we had ever seen in an Allen film before; hints of a torrid love affair, the predominantly British cast and setting, the dramatic overtones with little evidence of comedy, hints at possible violence. In short, it surprised everyone. It surprised me. After almost a decade of slogging through mediocre films like "Small Time Crooks" and truly bad, bad films like "Curse of the Jade Scorpion", "Melinda and Melinda" (shudder!), and "Anything Else" (double shudder!!), my patience as a die hard Woody Allen fan was sorely tested. The trailer peaked my curiosity. Is it possible? Could he have made another great film? Something so different from his previous works to respark his career?
"Match Point" is a very good film, easily Allen's best in a decade. But it falls short of his classics, films like "Annie Hall", "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" for a few reasons.
One of the biggest surprises is that Allen would set a film anywhere other than his beloved New York. But the London setting works well for Allen's writing and directing style. His writing is a little unnatural at times; a large majority of the characters in his films speak as though they all attended an Ivy League college and consistently stand around talking about philosophy, opera and `making love'. I'm not saying this doesn't happen, but in his less successful films, it rings false. In his last great films, this worked because the people who spoke these lines were wealthy, educated and it was believable. He also balanced these storylines with the comedic antics of his character.
Another positive change Allen has begun to make is that he is casting other actors as leads in his films. Will Farrell, Kenneth Branagh, John Cusack and others have essentially played the "Woody Allen" role in some of his recent offerings. This is a step in the right direction, but in most of these cases, these younger actors are still speaking Allen's dialogue and it just doesn't work. Strangely, in "Point", there is no "Woody Allen" character, adding another level of surprise to the film. He has created something almost entirely new, challenging his skills and abilities.
The predominantly British cast and locations add a level of authenticity to his writing, helping it seem more natural. We fully believe that a bunch of upper crust Brits would act and speak like this. At one point, late in the film, a character quickly talks about neuroses, reminding us that this is in fact a Woody Allen film. But before and after this point, the thought never occurred to me. You might almost forget.
The biggest and best change in the new film is that Allen doesn't subject us to another interpretation of his character running around with an actress (or two) twenty to thirty years his junior. We are spared endless scenes of these actresses claiming what a great lover Allen's character is. Thank GOD! Allen is a funny guy, but to watch Elizabeth Berkeley, Helen Hunt and others fight over Allen, and his "ability to make love", is just painful.
In "Point", Allen casts Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlet Johannson as the ill-fated lovers. Emily Mortimer completes the trio as Chris' supportive, yet eager to be pregnant wife. As the film begins, we realize we are in the hands of an accomplished filmmaker. Through a series of short scenes, Chris' life is quickly established and Rhys Meyers hints that his character may be a gold-digger, placing himself in situations in which he is more likely to meet the well-to-do. Then again, he could just be trying to make his life better; he is constantly trying to learn and seems to work hard. But Chris remains enough of an enigma to keep us guessing. As his life begins to get better, it also starts to unravel. He quickly becomes comfortable in his new lifestyle and sees it slipping out of his hands if Nola gets her way.
Emily Mortimer brings a quiet vulnerability to the role of Chloe. She adds just the right level of love and support to spoiled rich girl, making her character interesting and believable. Just as things begin to get complicated, she begins nagging Chris about having a baby. This causes her husband to vacillate back and forth. Should he stay with Chloe or leave her for a more passionate, but less comfortable existence with Nola?
The biggest problem in the film is Scarlet Johannson. She is good, but Allen's dialogue does not blend well with her age, lack of experience and accent. In her mouth, his dialogue sounds stiff and forced. The contrast between Johannson and the British actors is really quite noticeable. She is much better in her scenes with Tom, as his fiancée, sharing alcohol and food, flirting a bit, putting on an act. When she becomes the center of Chris' attention, she does and says things which seem unnatural becoming a fairly stereotypical "jilted lover". How exactly does a young American woman come up with the resources to move from England to the States and then back to London again? How does she survive in London on a shop girl's salary?
Also, there is a point during the resolution when characters, specifically two British detectives, talk about things we haven't seen. Their descriptions are amusing, but it is a sloppy method of storytelling.
These two points aside, "Match Point" represents a return to form for a master filmmaker. As the story unfolds, and we realize the events will be told in a series of tableaus, leaving out the unnecessary bits, we realize we are in the hands of a master. Sit back, enjoy and let Allen tell his story.
on June 24, 2015
Woody Allen has take a traditional theme, love and infidelity, and made a fascinating film about it. The acting is first rate, the musical background, operatic music perfectly chosen, and, of course, the script and direction as only Woody Allen can do it. Once again, he has reinforced his position as one of the handful of film-makers who could sustain a high level of quality through a good many pictures over a very long period of time. This is not a movie for Woody Allen fans, it is a movie for everyone who likes an old fashioned romantic film with a twist as distinctive as were Hitchcock's.