From a humble background and with traditional values, Irish Chris Wilton is still struggling financially despite being a recently retired high ranked tennis pro. He has taken a job as a tennis instructor at an upscale London tennis club, although he knows there is a better life for him somewhere down the road. He is befriended by one of his students, wealthy Tom Hewett. Chris starts to date Tom's sister, Chloe Hewett, a girl-next-door type who is immediately attracted to Chris. Chloe quickly knows she wants to marry Chris, and through her businessman father, Alec Hewett, tries to help Chris and their future by getting him an executive job in Alec's company. In his life with the Hewetts, Chris begins to enjoy the finer things in life. Through it all however, Chris cannot help thinking about Nola Rice, a struggling American actress who he meets at the Hewett estate and who is Tom's unofficial fiancée. Nola is vivacious, and she knows the effect she has on men, including Chris. Unlike ...Written by
When Chloe's parents are visiting her and Chris (before he takes Nola's call on his mobile), the stunning view of the Thames from their floor to ceiling windows is strangely static: two boats on the water never move throughout the scene. See more »
Christopher "Chris" Wilton:
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. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose.
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a serious channeling of Dostoyevsky via infidelity drama by Woody Allen
Match Point is my favorite American-directed film of 2005. Woody Allen, coming off of hitting his stride again with Melinda and Melinda, goes back to his darker, dramatic side, and makes a story that may seem a little familiar, though not to his discredit. Woody borrows (some may say steal) elements from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, one of the great novels of the 19th century (some may say ever written, I have read his work though not this yet), and transfuses it with subject matter that he's more than well acquainted with- the relationship drama. But un-like Love and Death, which was Allen's way of parodying the work of the author, this time he takes the work seriously, plunging the audience into the mind, conflicts, and outcome of the protagonist. That the performances by the actors involved, particularly the three main leads are top notch (Jonathan Rhys-Myers, Emily Mortimer, and Scarlett Johnasson in one of her best) brings full blood and flesh to Woody's strong skeleton of a film.
The story starts slow. Chris Wilton (Rhys-Myers) is an Irishman in London, a tennis instructor who could've gone pro. He meets Chloe (Mortimer) through her brother Tom (Matthew Goode) and they soon become close, close enough for marriage. Basically, he marries into an upper-class family where he's coaxed into becoming a businessman for the family. But during this he also meets Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), a struggling American actress, who's engaged to Tom. One thing leads to another, yada-yada, and Chris winds up in a big pickle as he's in a love-triangle between Chloe and Nola. Allen handles this dilemma with a powerful precision, by building up the relationships Chris has with each girl, and how there is not unbelievability in the set-ups. Nola is sensible and intelligent, if not altogether, while Chloe is caring and decent, if maybe too picture perfect for Chris. The dynamics are set-up so well, it leaves room for ample drama and suspense.
Allen, who has also been a playwright for decades, knows the way people interact like so, and how not to rush the situations and use tact with delicate scenes. There is also the element of Opera, which Chris sees with Chloe's family often, and the element of tennis. The analogies that both produce could possibly be very trite or cliché. It's not to say a couple of scenes are even cliché (ladies, you know you've seen quite a few movies with passionate kissing in the rain), but I even bought into those scenes. There is perhaps a certain manipulation that goes into these kinds of love stories, how much the audience can go with the inner conflict of our main character. But as the protagonist goes into a frame of mind that most may not be able to identify with, we're still with him all the way. And, perhaps, it's also because I love a good, solid infidelity story. Allen has here not only his best film in several years, but also likely his most suspenseful one.
Those who may not go with the sympathies &/or empathy for the characters may not like the film as much. Some have even criticized minor gripes with the film, like Rhys-Myers's unconvincing accent, or the over-usage of London's most famous landmarks. As an American, perhaps, I didn't mind certain things like these. When a filmmaker has this much trust in his script (and Woody, pushing 70 in making this, is not amateur), and has the right cast, it just takes off from there. To say I was on the edge of my seat through a good chunk of the third act is an under-statement and, at the core, was even cathartic in a way. It's the kind of film I would love to tell more people about, even if they think Woody is washed up after years of arguably less-than-great pictures. For some it might not even 'feel' like a Woody Allen movie, that at times it's a little 'slick'. It still is, however the work of an artist reaching further into his grab-bag with younger, exciting actors, and an interesting use of a (finally) new city.
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