Match Point (2005)
"Did anyone ever tell you you've got a very aggressive game?"- Nola (Scarlett Johansson)
Stars: Brian Cox, Matthew Goode, Scarlett Johansonn, Emily Mortimer, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Penelope Wilton
Director: Woody Allen
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Run Time: 02h:04m:27s
Release Date: 2006-04-25
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewWoody Allen has been relentlessly churning out movies for decades, to the point now that you can almost set your clock by the release date of what's invariably referred to before its premiere as Untitled Woody Allen Fall Project. We've all got our favorites, but I admit to harboring a suspicion about someone so prolific—and for a while it sure felt like Allen was spinning his wheels a little bit, going over the same territory time and again, not necessarily generating that much illumination. You started to feel that his attention span was waning, that he'd start a project and lose interest in it quickly, looking to slap together a final cut and move on to the next story rather than working out all the kinks. Add to that the vagaries of Hollywood politics—Orion, the studio that had distributed many of Allen's best pictures, has long since disappeared into a film-industry black hole—and the tabloid fodder that Allen's personal life provided a decade or so ago, and you couldn't help but think that Allen had lost more than a little bit off of his fastball.
But with Match Point, he seems reinvigorated—perhaps it was going across the pond that did it, for it's got the kind of vigor we associate with the best Allen pictures, and you can almost feel the writer/director taking to this new kind of energy, much like Robert Altman did with Gosford Park. It's a story that treads on the familiar Allen territory of infidelity and betrayal, and Allen's view of human nature is as dark here as it's ever been.
Jonathan Rhys Myers stars as Chris Wilton, in the waning days of a career on the professional tennis circuit—he just nibbled around the margins, without the talent and the fire of the Federers and Roddicks of this world, and is coasting into the next phase of his life by giving lessons at a posh London club. One of his first pupils is Tom (Matthew Goode), and they immediately strike up a friendship—Tom is from an impossibly wealthy family, and soon brings Chris round to meet his industrialist father (the always excellent Brian Cox) and particularly his sister, Chloe, played enchantingly by Emily Mortimer. Chloe is just a wee bit awkward, perhaps a bit too intellectual for her own good, and most definitely single—Chris likes her well enough, and the prospect of daddy's millions cannot hurt, and soon enough they are an item. But of course temptation lurks in paradise, here in the form of Nola, Tom's fiancée. She's a struggling American actress with a smoldering sensuality—Chris well knows that the right thing to do is to steer clear of his girlfriend's brother's girlfriend, but, as a wise man once said, the heart wants what it wants.
The initial reviews of this film compared it frequently to Hitchcock, and there are some obvious parallels—merely the fact that Chris is a tennis pro is enough to bring Strangers on a Train to mind, and the evolving relationship between Chris and Chloe is reminiscent of the one between Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in Suspicion. But the story with which this film bears an even greater affinity is Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, filmed quite spectacularly as A Place in the Sun. Here Rhys Myers is in for Montgomery Clift, as the ambitious, amoral, dangerously handsome young man from a lower social caste, and Johansson splits the bill, first as Elizabeth Taylor, with a ping pong table in for the famous pool table, and later as Shelley Winters, the problem that won't go away. Watching Johansson, you get the sense that she's heard many too many times about how she's catnip to men, and you also get the sense that Allen has believed the hype—in fact, you learn more than you care to about Woody Allen's notions of the erotic, which seem to involve Enrico Caruso records and lots of baby oil. But she does get to show some range here, and she becomes a great foil for Rhys Myers, who is at turns both genuinely winning and deeply creepy in the central role.
As is always the case with Woody Allen movies, this one has been made handsomely, and the production design, costuming and cinematography are impeccable—and it's sort of nice to see him linger over the loveliness of London, as getting this kind of TLC from Woody Allen has been almost the exclusive province of Manhattan's Upper East Side. You can see some of Allen's limits—there's lots of talk of business, for instance, but he clearly has little or no idea as to what people actually do in offices; and before things take a brutally dark turn in the second half, some of the plot elements border on conventionality, with the inappropriate phone calls and improbable excuses to get away that are the staples of on-screen infidelity. But ultimately this is deeply compelling stuff, and tremendously unsettling. Allen's next two films are to be shot in London as well; it's clear the mother country agrees with him.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Remi Adeferasin joins the list of cinematographers who have done stellar work for Woody Allen, and his images have been well transferred, with only a bit of fading from the color stock.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Allen continues to insist that his films be released exclusively in mono audio, making the dynamic range here limited, but transferred with clarity.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Munich
Extras Review: Consistent with other DVD releases of Woody Allen movies, this one features only chapter stops and subtitles.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAll the money in the world cannot buy you a clean conscience, and no one in film has explored the darkness of the human heart more relentlessly than Woody Allen. A strong and unsettling effort from a great filmmaker, who seems newly invigorated by working across the Atlantic. It's worth giving up a few more Monday nights at the Carlyle if the results will be as terrific as this.
Jon Danziger 2006-05-02