Match Point (2005)
This is an excellent return to form for Woody Allen and his best film since 1987’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. The first half is deliberately slow, yes, but it is justified by the second half which more than makes up for it. The first half needed to be as slow as it is to set up the incredible minutia of this rich, elite world that former tennis pro Chris (Jonathon Rhys-Myers) has been adopted into. We need to see how comfortable this life is to understand why he doesn’t want to give it up and why he goes through the machinations he does in the second half. The characters and dialogue are spot-on and Allen has transported his world of the upper crust New York elite so well over to London, and the change of scenery has reawakened his writing. Allen knows the privileged world very well and their disconnected view point. However, he rightly centers his film not on the neurotic upper crust but on his social climbers Chris and Nola (Scarlett Johansson), a beauty engaged to Chris’ prospective brother-in-law. It is the second half of Match Point that makes it great. Allen tightens the screws on his social climbers and the tension is superbly taut. The dark turns and in the final act are greatly entertaining, as Allen delves further into his look at a universe built around chance and disorder. The returning imagery of the ball hitting the tennis net elicited gasps from my audience, and I was one of them. I love that Allen lets his story continue to unfold after the dark twists. The film’s biggest flaw is anchoring the entire point of view on Rhys-Myers, a somewhat limited actor that reminded me of Jude Law’s character in Closer. Johansson is an excellent noir femme fatale, her husky voice perfectly suited. Frankly, if ever there was a Scarlett Johansson nude scene, this movie was crying out for it. She has her tawdry affair with Chris and there’s even a sequence where we see her laying on her stomach nude while he applies baby oil to her. Their sex is supposed to be so impassioned and carnal, in contrast to his boring but stable relationship with Chloe (Emily Mortimer). And yet no nudity? Woody Allen, you’ve let me down. Your film, on the other hand, is intelligent, sharp, dark, taut, and wonderfully entertaining.
Nate’s Grade: A
Posted on March 3, 2006, in 2005 Movies and tagged brian cox, drama, emily mortimer, indie, jonathan rhys-meyers, killers as leads, noir, oscars, scarlett johnansson, thriller, woody allen. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.