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Match Point just joined Brokeback Mountain and Cinderella Man in the
top three films for me this year. Like Brokeback Mountain, however, it
is almost impossible to write a reasonably intelligent review without
writing a spoiler.
I have been a hot and cold Woody Allen watcher, but was only a fan during his comedic phase. So, despite hearing from a few reliable sources that this is Woody's masterpiece, I was skeptical and went in with few expectations. I am glad. Approaching the movie this way allowed it to creep up on me.
The NYC Jewish dialog is gone. The quirky sense of humor is nowhere to be found. the hypersensitivity is missing. Where's Woody? Well, he's in London, but the place and time, despite the opinions of some critics, are largely irrelevant in this film.
There is only one line in this film that indicates its origin - it has something to do with 'intertwined neuroses' and nearly made me laugh.
The first 3/4ths of this film is almost completely taken up with character development, but also contains all of the basics of the inexorable plot that truly unfolds near the end. The characters are all quite likable, and, if you're like me, you will yearn for a happy ending. Watch out! - you've just been hooked and Woody's about to reel you in!
Match Point draws its audience in quietly and slowly at first, defining its territory as a smart, hip, and sophisticated character study early on (in no way unexpected for Mr. Allen), but then it takes an irreversibly sinister turn as one man threatens to bring everybody we have grown to love and respect down with him.
The performances and cinematography in this film are all-around the best I've seen this year. Allen uses a lot of very close-in face shots, and his cast handles it with ease, performing their parts with accuracy and no lack of passion. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emily Mortimer, and Scarlett Johanssen are all excellent, and the rest of the cast lends excellent support. I found no fault in the pace or the plot - this is easily Woody's most plot-heavy film, and you can tell that he had a great time putting it together.
The story line of Match Point is powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly clever. Philosophical folks will likely want to talk about it afterward. Some will find it frustrating and others will find it pretentious. Still others will point to Woody's own life and claim that this film is some form of perverse confession. Well, from my perspective, it is simply damn good story-telling.
Highly recommended for adult audiences.
I was lucky enough to see this film at the Cannes Film Festival
recently where it screened out of competition. Being a Woody Allen fan,
I was just hoping the film would be OK and not a disaster like some of
his most recent films. Boy, was I surprised! MATCH POINT is easily his
best film since CRIMES AND MISDEMEANOURS and once of his best ever. In
his first foray out of Manhattan and into London, you would have
thought he had lived there all his life. This film is a masterpiece and
is a sure bet to win critical acclaim and many awards. Jonathan Rhys
Meyers is a revelation and finally lands a role of a lifetime as a
young man who enters the world of the wealthy elite and would do
anything to stay there. Scarlett Johansson has never looked as sultry
and sexy as she does here playing the cool femme fatale. The film is
beautifully structured and the performances by all and sundry are
exemplary. Emily Mortimer and Brian Cox stand out among the supporting
cast. The film has so many layers and so many unexpected twists that
this is obviously the work of a genius director in full flight.
What can I say. The best way to see this film is without knowing too much about it as I did and you will come away from it declaring that Woody Allen is still alive and kicking and still able to make a masterpiece even after all these years.
Match Point is a cool, classically elegant and concise film that addresses all of the big questions--love, morality, death, fate, chance--without ever seeming heavy or self-conscious. I've never seen a Woody Allen film to match it. As a matter of fact, I can't remember another film of late that I thought was quite this good. From the opening shot, the film draws you in and doesn't let up, moving from shot to shot with a fine sense of rhythm and a narrative drive that builds the viewer's curiosity through a series of unexpected switchbacks. Rhys-Meyers is superb as an ex- professional tennis player from a poor Irish background who has turned social climber. Too proud to accept a favor from his upper class friends without immediately offering to pay it back, he affects an interest in opera and Strindberg. The viewer at once sympathizes with him and winces as he strains to seem refined and self-assured. Allen has put together a superb cast of young actors who bring his near flawless script to life so convincingly that one almost immediately suspends disbelief and becomes absorbed in the story. The shots of London are luxuriant and spacious, never self-indulgent. Few films, novels, or plays manage to form such rich dramatic material out of characters' inner obstacles. A classic piece of drama that reaches toward the likes of Shakespeare and Dostoevksy, every facet--from structure to dialog to editing to sound--is brought off with panache. This is not only Allen at his best but an example of what the cinematic medium is capable of when properly exploited.
What a throughly engrossing evening Woody Allen has provided. This film
has been, by and large, poorly received by the British critics. I
cannot understand why. Yes, it does have the strongest echoes of Crimes
and Misdemeanours, but if a director/writer can't borrow from his own
product, who can? This isn't funny Allen -- there are few laughs -- but
it is an extremely intense and successful serious Allen.
Does Allen's magic transfer to my home city? You bet it does; lovely locations; Notting Hill, the Tate Modern, the "Gherkin" in the City, all look great but are also entirely relevant. Many critics said he didn't have an ear for British dialogue. I simply don't hear that -- it may be a bit stagy at times, but the writing is spare, to the point, and literate. Few trans-Atlantic clunkers.
Yes, there are some silly bits; bits where you wish any half-intelligent Englishman had watched the film and said "Wood, old son, this is cobblers". British detectives don't call themselves "Detective so-and-so". They might be Detective-Sergeant or whatever. The force that polices London is the Metropolitan Police, not the "London Police". Perhaps Allen didn't realise that his main copper, Ulster actor James Nesbitt, sounds a parody of the amusing roles he plays in some widely-seen British Yellow Pages adverts. Little things, so easy to iron out, that detract just a touch from credibility.
Scarlett Johannsson -- what an actress, is she really only 20 or whatever? She packs huge power and stunning looks, if occasionally getting a trifle near Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Jonathan Rhys Myers does his forlorn sports coach bit, as from Bend It Like Beckham. The solidly Brit supporting cast is entirely believable, even if their effortlessly affluent lifestyle takes a bit of swallowing. Genuine surprises at the end. This is a thoroughly satisfying evening at the movies.
A Noir with English accents. A modern, ancient tale with super stars of the future and a score of crackling vinyl original recordings of timeless arias. A sixtysomething filmmaker with the flair of an impertinent newcomer. A masterpiece. Engrossing, entertaining, elegant, wicked. The meeting between the splendorous Scarlett Johanssen and the breathtaking Jonathan Rhys-Meyers at the ping pong table is right out "A Place In The Sun" - Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift at the pool table - the feeling is James Cain and Patricia Highsmith but the result is unique, bold, enthralling. Allen's British dialogues are refreshingly startling and I don't intend to spoil the pleasure of its perverse surprises by hinting at any of them. Just let me say that if you love cinema, rush to see it.
...and what a great stroke of luck it is to have sat through Woody
Allen's latest, "Match Point." Fans of Woody could sense his comeback
in the tragedy half of his last effort, "Melinda and Melinda." It was
far more compelling than the comedy half, and the philosophical ideas
it brought up were the best Woody Allen had given us in a long while.
Here with "Match Point" he explores the notion of luck and gives us his
best film since....well, since I don't know when. He proves here that
when he leaves himself out of the cast, and changes locations (the
transition from New York City to London is as flawless as it is
invigorating), he can deliver the goods. This film, free of all the
typical Allen shtick, and full of noirish twists and surprises, is
every bit as good as Robert Altman's "The Player" or "Gosford Park,"
and like those two films, it's the best kind of return to form you
could hope for from a past master.
Chris Wilton (played moderately well by Johnathan Rhys Myers, who comes across as a more handsome Joquin Phoenix) is a failed tennis pro from Ireland who gets a plum job at a snobbish country club in London where he meets up with Tom (an appropriately British Matthew Goode), woos his sister, Chloe (an adorable Emily Mortimer), and has an affair with Tom's flighty fiancée, a struggling American actress named Nola (a ravishing Scarlett Johansson). The film starts off like a more refined version of last year's tawdry affair, "Closer," with Allen exploring the love lives of semi-bored, over-educated filthy rich Brits who when not hopping in and out of each other's beds are hob-nobbing at the opera, the latest art exhibit, or lounging around their lavish estates reading and drinking. There's also a hint of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" in its exploration of the class system and Chris' obsession with infiltrating this exclusive and beguiling society. Thankfully, we're spared all of the weirdness of an atrocity like "Ripley," as Allen keeps it all very clean, sheen, clever and classy.
The film takes some dark turns and has some operatic overtures, spiced with some Dostoevsky references and plenty of pondering on luck. Allen here doesn't seem to be writing off the need for hard work completely, but to achieve a truly privileged life, where one can get away with just about anything, you better have a lot of luck.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Would it that this film had been made in the Forties or Fifties when
film-noir was at its high point! Woody Allen, one of America's best
directors pays his homage to the genre in his latest film about
romantic obsession, and if his name weren't in the opening credits you
wouldn't know he directed it. Taking a break from filming in the city
he loves the most, deleting every trace of the well known neurotic
hoots and clicks from his main and supporting British cast, and even
removing the trademark reference to his own persona from Jonathan
Rhys-Meyers' performance, MATCH POINT becomes a very European film that
starts out deceptively as a character study with comedic tones and ever
so subtle moves into the darker side of love, echoing THE POSTMAN
ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and of all films, FATAL ATTRACTION.
A love quadrangle, the oldest plot device, is Allen's focus this time: Chris Wilton (Rhys-Meyers), a retired tennis player, becomes an instructor to Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode). Both find that they have similar interests, such as the love of opera and the works of Dostoyevsky. (They have another similar interest, but I'm getting there). Tom invites Chris for an evening at the opera and introduces him to his family and sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), who falls for him and who later on signifies familial safety in all forms. Sensing an opportunity to climb the social ladder he starts seeing her just as he meets Nola Rice (Scarlett Johanssen), an aspiring American actress, whom he openly flirts with until he realizes she's Tom's girlfriend, but an outsider in the Wilton household. A clandestine affair between Chris and Nola begins tentative at first -- she advises him against it since it would ruin his chances to become a success and she is engaged to Tom -- but turns deeper. However, a turn of events transpire, taking Nola out of the picture, having Tom marry another girl and Chris marry Chloe, and start to get complicated once Chris tracks Nola down.
Like I said, would it that MATCH POINT would have been filmed 60 years ago because everything in it smolders like the plot elements of the sleekest of noir films. With a deliberate pace that begins taking a sinister shape after the second half, Allen misdirects the audience to the very core. Allen avoids any trace of romantic melodrama, though, and in showing what actually transpires between a couple ensnared in an affair -- their initial bedazzlement, their passion consummated, turning into routine and then its painful decline -- is true to life. Nola, initially seen in white much like Lana Turner in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE seems to be in total control until Allen deftly pulls the rug out of her feet and has her do a slow collapse into her own trap, dressed in darker and darker colors. Chris, at first, so lusts after her it's a question if he can choose her love over social status and this becomes the crux of MATCH POINT: whether the tennis ball falls over the net or not.
There are moments when you think that a director who once had his audience eating out of his hand has gone into autopilot or entered a point of no return. Up until recently, Woody Allen had had even his most hardcore fans put through the ringer with film after film of a disposable nature. With this film, which has a strong connection to CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, he shows that he never was gone. In erasing all references to his staccatto style, he wins over a new audience willing to accept his work with ease and this is at times necessary: like Hitchcock's self-effacing FRENZY, MATCH POINT is an excellent movie showcasing a director in full control of his ability to tell a visual tale. Maybe not up there with the best of his roster but pretty damn close, and that's saying quite a wallop.
The best Woody Allen movie in about 15 years. I would've said that a
couple of months back about 'Melinda and Melinda' but this is a far
better cry than Melinda and Melinda. Don't get me wrong, I think
Melinda and Melinda is a good movie, but 'Match' is more fulfilling.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Chris Wilton, a former tennis pro turned tennis teacher who is of Irish lower class. He is shocked to find out he got a job as a tennis instructor in a high class country club. There he meets Tom Hewett played by Matthew Goode in a very strong performance. What Rhys Meyers does is unbelievable, he showcases what he is really made of in this movie. Chris sounds like a simple person but what Rhys Meyers did was make him a person of complexity. From the moments of solitude when he's in the same room as his family, the way he grieves for what he's doing and what he is about to do is very convincing.
Emily Mortimer plays Chloe Hewett Wilton, Chris' wife and Tom's sister. Also what Mortimer does is also outstanding, even though she isn't given much to make Chloe a person rather than a persona, Mortimer makes Chloe a person with ease. In my opinion, I think Emily Mortimer does a better job of playing her character than Kate Winslet would've done had she been attached. She has the right notes and chemistry with Jonathan Rhys Meyers to make their marriage and romance very believable, and what Mortimer does in the moments of denial and solitude she is given, she makes Chloe a complete person. This performance should make her a star.
Scarlett Johansson gives, in my opinion, maybe her 2nd best performance in this movie. Johansson is OUTSTANDING as Nola Rice, a struggling actress. Johansson shows us her range to play this character, the epitome of tragic beauty, Johansson combines elements of sexuality, desire, nostalgia, in one being. Though this performance may not be as good as her performance in Lost in Translation, its still good enough to get her an Academy Award Nomination.
Match Point starts off as a drama and works its way into being a very tense psychological thriller, and Woody Allen shows he is still in top form by trying something daring, and pulling it off. This movie is a silent masterpiece.
This film at first doesn't seem like a typical Woody Allen film but at the end you know it's one and why. While the story and theme is familiar, Mr Allen brings new perspective and avoids clichés. He goes to the themes he explored in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" but without the Ingmar Bergman homage. Instead it's more fun and exciting to watch. I guess the young hot cast and new location doesn't seem like the usual Woody Allen film, even though he used young hot talents before. This one belongs to his best films which is good news to his fans. The cast is excellent but the supporting cast outshines the leads somehow. Matthew Goode made a strong impression and sure to become a star in the near future. I'm glad Woody Allen changed locations and used some of the best British actors for a change. I guess people who will read this comment, will already know about the plot, so I will avoid it. I watched the film at Cannes where it was well received by critics and the audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In "Match Point," Woody Allen, caught in one of his more "serious"
moods, takes a simple tale about marital infidelity and turns it into
something complex and fascinating. Although he leaves a trail of clues
implying that this is to be another of his homages to Fyodor
Dostoevsky, the film really turns out to be Allen's own version of
Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" (albeit set in England,
perhaps to throw us off the scent). The parallels between the two works
are not perfect, of course - in fact they often seem to be
intentionally inverted - but they are close enough to make us wonder if
Allen did, indeed, do it all on purpose.
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Chris Wilton, a down-on-his-luck social climber who marries into wealth but longs for the passion he finds with another woman. Chris is a professional tennis player who decides to leave the circuit when he realizes he hasn't the skill to compete with the real pros. Taking a job as an instructor at a posh, highly exclusive tennis club, Chris finds himself wining and dining with the rich and famous after one of his pupils, Tom Hewett, takes a liking to him and introduces Chris to his snooty but accepting family. Chris begins to date Tom's warmhearted sister, Chloe, but he is really smitten by an aspiring American actress, Nola, who just happens to be Tom's fiancé. Chris makes the mistake of marrying Chloe before Tom and Nola call off their engagement and go their separate ways. The fact that Nola is free but he is not doesn't deter Chris from pursing an affair with the woman who provides all the passion and excitement his loving but boring wife cannot. But Chris soon discovers that carrying on an affair can result in a life filled with secrecy, lies, guilt and self-loathing. And when the going gets to be just a bit too much for our hero to handle well, there's always that "final solution" lurking in the wings, as many an earlier adulterer has discovered to his everlasting regret.
"Match Point" starts off very slowly and seems at first as if it will be just another tale of adultery and unrequited love. Yet, Allen really knows how to draw us into Chris' predicament, so that, by about halfway into the film, we feel as enmeshed in his seemingly irreconcilable dilemma as he himself is. Torn between the wealth and position he has as Chloe's husband and the love he feels for the relatively impoverished Nola, Chris is frozen into a state of paralyzing indecisiveness, his every waking moment a tormenting hell of fear and gathering dread as he keeps waiting in breathless anticipation for that other shoe to drop. It isn't until the "other woman" becomes more of a burden than his clinging wife that Chris can finally launch into action. This turnabout in the screenplay might strike many in the audience as arbitrary and implausible and there is certainly a case to be made for that. But if you can go with the flow, you will be delighted by all the little ironies Allen throws at us in the final stages of the story, which help to underline the filmmaker's thesis that, for all the efforts we make to control our lives, The Fickle Finger of Fate - or in this case a tennis ball precariously balancing on the top of a net trying to figure out which way to fall - always has the final word.
Allen has written dialogue that is incisive, intelligent and literate, and the performances he's drawn from the likes of Rhys-Meyers, Goode, Emily Mortimer, Scarlett Johannson and Penelope Wilton are superb down to the tiniest detail. Allen keeps his camera tightly focused on his characters, rarely pulling away from them much beyond a middle distance, keeping us firmly locked in the near-claustrophobic drama. Here is a movie that demands patience at the beginning but that really sneaks up on you the longer you watch it.
Guided by the hands of a master, "Match Point" is one of Allen's finest films in years.
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