Film Reviews

MATCH POINT

By • Jan 20th, 2006 •

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BBCFilms and Thema Prods. present a Jada production
No MPAA rating / Running time — 124 minutes

QUOTE: Thankfully, writer-director Woody Allen stays out of the movie, does the job, and weaves an interesting tale.

MATCH POINT starts off slow, meandering around upper-class Britain, drenching itself in opera. My husband bailed out once the opera music started but since I’m a fan of star Jonathan Rhys Meyers I stayed with it. It’s an interesting story that reminded me of A PLACE IN THE SUN (Theodore Dreiser’s novel “An American Tragedy.”)

What dominates life, luck or hard work? For Woody Allen, it’s freakish luck.

Irish former tennis pro Chris Wilton (Rhys Meyers) gets a job teaching tennis at a posh London club. He almost became a tennis star. His tennis credentials make him an asset. He overcame a disadvantaged, poor background but failed to rank high on the tennis circuit. He retired but is looking for something to do. He wants to contribute something meaningful to the world.

One of his students is wealthy scion Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) who invites him to the opera where he meets Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). The immensely wealthy family quickly embraces Chris when Chloe shows a romantic interest in him. Chris is humble, modest, and kind. With a great deal of pressure from Chloe and her father, Alec (Brian Cox), Chris soon joins the family business.

Alec and his wife Eleanor (Penelope Wilton) like the sensitive Chris, especially since he is far more suitable than Tom’s American fiancée, the young, provocative wanna-be actress/shopgirl Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson). Nola is gorgeous and Chris must have sex with her even though it will kill his opportunities for riches and social position. They have a quick fling. The Hewett family has ignored the so-important British class structure and has welcomed Chris with a generous open heart.

Chris really doesn’t want favors from Alex, or the vast apartment, the prestigious job, car and driver, and expense account. Chris orders the cheapest things on the menu. He’s perfect and even business smart. But he has one flaw. Let’s quote one of the most selfish of celebrity statements: “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

Tom’s mother successfully “poisons” his relationship with the inappropriate Nola. Chris wisely marries plain, unsexy Chloe but, after a year, resumes his affair with Nola. As Chris advances in the family business and lifestyle, he starts to feel pressured to make Chloe pregnant.

But it is the passionate Nola who gets pregnant and she demands Chris leave Chloe immediately. She becomes frantic and starts making threats to ruin Chris’s grand estate lifestyle. She stops being a passive, sweet young lady.

Chris is in a crisis of his own making and here we see that writer Allen decides that morality be damned, it comes down to the completely arbitrary factor called “luck.” Does Chris deserve the outcome? He is so humble and bullied by Nola that you feel manipulated by Allen. For Allen, “luck” made the line call.

The usually (but not here) sexy Rhys Meyers is showcased wonderfully as he is forced to confront the dilemma he has created for himself. This is Johansson’s best role. (I understand from the Vanity Fair magazine article on Woody Allen that Johansson has completed work in the next Allen un-named film.) Allen has crafted a film with an interesting philosophical concept and by stepping out of the way has finally made a film I can recommend.


Cast:
Nola Rice: Scarlett Johansson
Chris Wilton: Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Chloe Hewett Wilton: Emily Mortimer
Tom Hewett: Matthew Goode
Alec Hewett: Brian Cox
Eleanor Hewett: Penelope Wilton

Credits:
Screenwriter-director: Woody Allen
Producers: Letty Aronson, Lucy Darwin, Gareth Wiley
Executive producers: Jack Rollins, Charles H. Joffe, Stephen Tenenbaum
Director of photography: Remi Adefarasin
Production designer: Jim Clay
Costume designer: Jill Taylor
Editor: Alisa Lepselter

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