Match Point Review
By Joe Lozito
Someone's gotten to Woody Allen. After all these years of being virtually synonymous with upper-class Manhattan neurotics, he has relocated. "Match Point", Mr. Allen's finest film since 1999's "Sweet and Lowdown"
, takes place entirely in and around the city of London and, once you get past of idea of a Woody Allen movie without the Manhattan skyline, it works surprisingly well. Some of Mr. Allen's hallmarks translate easily: in place of high-class Manhattanites, this film features high-class Londoners; instead of a jazz soundtrack, this one has opera; and instead of his usual commentary on dating and relationships, "Match Point" is a straight-on thriller in the vein of "Fatal Attraction".
The plot revolves around a tennis pro (hence the title) who falls in with a wealthy British family and begins an affair with his best friend's fiancée. The film, however, is nowhere near as trite as that one sentence description would make it seem. Mr. Allen's talent has always been in his ability to create characters and let them interact over an extended time, and "Match Point" is a perfect example of that. Watch how effortlessly Mr. Allen shows the months and years passing with a line of dialogue here, a subtle change of season there, or something as simple as a Christmas tree in the background. And all the while the characters and relationships in the film grow or decline as the case may be.
And who knew that Mr. Allen's dialogue could spring so trippingly from British tongues? With the exception of the Sophocles-quoting, Dostoyevsky-reading main character (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), there are very few signs of the standard Woody Allen archetypes. Emily Mortimer is nothing short of wonderful as the woman who falls for the tennis pro. The always-reliable Brian Cox is somehow a perfect fit as her father. While Mr. Rhys-Meyers comes dangerously close to becoming a cipher, he lets us in close enough to understand where he's coming from. And, yet again, this is still not the performance that "Lost in Translation"
promised from Scarlett Johansson, but she acquits herself well in the role of the femme fatale. Of course, casting Ms. Johansson as the object of lust is a no-brainer.
Of late Mr. Allen certainly hasn't been lazy - his one movie per year pace is nearly unfathomable - but his recent efforts, in particular 2002's "Hollywood Ending" and 2003's "Anything Else", have been uninspired at best. "Match Point" is a Woody Allen film, but it's like nothing we've seen from him before. Its closest cousin may be his 1989 masterpiece "Crimes and Misdemeanors". Whoever convinced him to step outside his comfort zone - and it may well have been Mr. Allen himself - should be commended. "Match Point" is the writer-director's most vital film in years; not so much a return to form as it is growth in a new direction. I would say he hits this one out of the park but that would be the wrong metaphor. Let's just say, he nails this one - game, set and match.