Opening 29 Dec 2005
Writing credits: Woody Allen
Principal actors: Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode
Is this really Woody Allen? After directing 39 films, most of which he also wrote as he did this one, Woody Allen has come up with a total departure from his usual “schtick”: an entertaining, suspenseful thriller along the lines of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Even the music is not the usual smooth jazz, but opera! And he neither stars in this himself, nor do any of the characters stand in for him – there is not a neurotic mensch anywhere in sight. And to top it off, it is filmed entirely in and around London, rather than New York. But his signature is there: the fairy tale quality of the settings, a moral to the story (some people are lucky, others are not) and the clever but completely improbable ending.
Match Point deals with Britain’s uppah clahsses and its would be gate crashers, and it stars British actors mostly unknown to Americans. One exception is the dazzlingly sexy Scarlett Johansson as Nola, an American wannabe actress who wants to marry up. Her counterpart is a clever, talented social climber, Chris Wilton (cooly portrayed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who has parlayed his talent into a job as the tennis pro at a swank British club where he soon meets Tom Hewitt (Matthew Goode, so utterly believable in his role as the privileged son that I looked for a title among the credits) and, more importantly, Tom’s sweet, if a bit cloying, sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Tom is engaged to Nola – and Chris is totally in lust from the first minute he sees her. So deranged by desire, in fact, that he subsequently risks the very comfortable life he has managed to marry into, just to be with Nola. Before the film ends, there are two murders.
The last half-hour has enough witty twists and turns to remind one that Woody Allen had a hand in this after all, but for the first three-quarters of the film, Allen is out of sight and out of mind.
The film is witty, engrossing, pretty – with all its beautiful people, great contemporary art and fabulous dwellings – and thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. (Adele Riepe)