Match Point (2005)
Starring: Brian Cox, Matthew Goode, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Penelope Wilton
Directed by: Woody Allen
In our tireless pursuit to see Academy Award-nominated films before the big show, my wife and I trekked out to the only theatre in town showing Best Original Screenplay nominee Match Point last night. Even without the nomination, I was intrigued to see Woody Allen's newest film, mostly because I heard that it wasn't that Woody Allenish. I'm not going to say that I'm not a fan of Woody Allen movies, because the truth is, this only the second one I've seen in full (the other being Mighty Aphrodite). But, until now, none of the others have interested me at all, other than maybe Annie Hall, and that's mostly because of its exalted spot in movie history (it feels like a movie I should have seen by now).
I'll start by listing the things that Match Point does right. First and foremost, the movie looks great. Stepping out of the well-trod streets of Manhattan for a London setting was a great move for Allen, who makes excellent use of his gorgeous backdrop. In the early part of the movie, it's a pleasure just to look around the frame and take in the aristocratic London he presents. Allen can really frame a shot, with his eye not only focused on making the backdrop look great. The cast looks great, the shots look great, everything is picturesque. Other positives for the film include the overall British charm of the cast, particularly with supporting actor Matthew Goode (not the Canadian singer), who is playing the Hugh Grant role, only younger. Also, Scarlett Johansson is hot, and gets to do hot things with co-stars Goode and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
Now for what Match Point does wrong: everything else. Maybe the wounds are still too fresh, but right now I gotta say that it'll be a cold day in hell before I ever sit down to watch a Woody Allen movie again. Fuck was this movie pointless (or, Pointless). Sure, it's a good looking picture, but nothing of any value takes place in the film. Basically, Woody Allen the director really got hosed by Woody Allen the writer here. The film is billed as a suspense/thriller, even though it contains neither suspense or thrills. Basically, it's yet another long conversational drama about dysfunctional couples who articulate their quiet desperations in ways that don't resemble human beings speaking. So, it's just like every other Woody Allen drama, only this time it's in London and Allen didn't cast himself as the guy who gets to sleep with Johansson.
I'm not necessarily against conversational dramas... when they have a point. When there's a story to support it. When it involves characters who the audience can care about and identify with. This movie has none of those things. It just drags on and on following the life of tennis pro Chris Wilton (Rhys-Meyers), a self-made man who works his way into a good life courtesy of a rich family led by father Alec Hewitt (Brian Cox, going against type and playing a nice guy here). Chris gets to know the family through Tom Hewitt (Goode), the son to whom he gives tennis lessons. Chris quickly begins to date daughter Chloe Hewitt (Emily Mortimer), but soon finds himself drawn to struggling actress Nola Rice (Johansson), fiancée of Tom. The first three quarters of the film follow these characters through their boring, privileged lives, as Chris lusts after Nola, marries Chloe, has an affair with Nola, yada yada yada. I didn't care about Chris because he's completely self-centred and even a little sociopathic. I didn't care about Chloe because she's annoying and underdeveloped. I didn't care about Nola because she's vapid and boring. I actually did care a little bit about Tom, because he had the dashing rogue thing going, but he doesn't get many scenes and is only a bit player. So if I'm unable to care about any of these characters, why would I want to watch an hour and forty-five minutes of them trying to drudge through their simple lives?
I guess I'm supposed to care because of the big switch around the hour and forty-five minute mark from drama to suspense/thriller, when this yak-fest about pretty people being mean to each other in the name of passion and love turns to murder! But... yeah, didn't care. Since when does murder automatically make a movie a suspense/thriller? There's no suspense involved, a character quite simply kills another character, with no lead up other than the steps involved in getting to the murder. The murder itself isn't all that thrilling, it's pretty straight forward, then the killer leaves. There's no doubt that the character is going to do it, the only question is whether or not the killer will get away with it. Which paves the way for some showy scenes where the killer battles some inner demons over fear of getting caught and guilt, none of which draw up any real suspense, especially since I could hardly care at that point if the killer got away with it or not, I just wanted the movie to end already.
It was like Allen tacked on a different movie for the final act, because he knew the majority of the film had no purpose. He wanted to write some more monologues about relationship problems, show some people being mean to those they claim to love, then didn't know how to end it. So he pulled the murder out of his ass, and now critics are all excited that Woody Allen is doing a suspense film. He had his location, his actors, an idea for a shot or two, but forgot to bring a movie along with him.
The result is a cold, empty, meaningless film that is about as tiring a movie-going experience as I've had in awhile. It doesn't matter that it looked great, hell, Scarlett Johansson could've been naked most of the time and it still would've been pointless. It's not even that Match Point is a horrible movie, because it's not. It's a painfully mediocre movie, one that really has no good reason to exist.
Broken Flowers (2005)
The Upside of Anger (2005)
Wicker Park (2004)