– rated – SIMMERING
Match Point is an
unusual film from Woody Allen. For one thing, it was made in
London: the first Woody Allen production to be made entirely outside
New York. Next, all the cast but one (Scarlett Johansson) are not
Americans. But apart from that, I think this film is very Woody
Allen – the Woody of 2006 – cynical, jaded, bleak (but still funny) and
(gasp!) married to Mia Farrow's adopted daughter.
The tone of the film is set in the opening sequence, when our
anti-hero, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) announces: "The man who
said 'I'd rather be lucky than good' saw deeply into life. People are
afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck...
It's scary to think so much is out of one's control..." Allen places
this anti-hero, an Irish born tennis professional on the make, into
upper-class London society. Immediately we think of Patricia
Highsmith's character Tom Ripley, and we know what to expect... or do
There are other cultural references too: to "An American Tragedy"
(filmed as "A Place in the Sun", George Stevens, 1951), a character
reads "Crime and Punishment", Scarlett Johansson's character recalls
the Henry James heroines, and the whole cynical exercise brings to mind
some of Billy Wilder's more bitter films (like "The Apartment", 1960).
I'm actually having a hard time reviewing this film. It didn't
grab me in the way that some of Woody's films have. I think it is
because Woody is out of his milieu, and there's something a bit false
about the way the characters act and speak. Some of the British
critics have pointed out a number of stumbles and mistakes. For
example, some characters talk about "'The' Tate Modern," when the
definite article is not used for that institution. The character
Tom played (very well, I think) by Matthew Goode, says "I've got to
meet my wife at (the?) Tate Modern. There's a new painter
she wants to show me." This is quite some new painter if their
first exposure is a show at Tate Modern! There are other gripes –
the pronunciation of "Eleanor" with the accent on the last syllable,
instead of the first; people who like high opera don't generally like
Andrew Lloyd Webber unless they are being ironic, etc. Things
like that about the script didn't ring true, and this bothered me
But the broad brush strokes are a different matter. As a
social commentary it is as sharp and sardonic as Woody has ever been,
Cynical and pessimistic – even nihilistic. It's the musings of a
very clever man who seems to have lost faith in human integrity.
The ending is very clever and very satisfying. I want to see the
film again. That's a good enough recommendation for any film.