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Laramie Movie Scope:
Match Point

A different kind of Woody Allen film

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 26, 2005 -- “Match Point” is dark drama a lot like “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” It is about a young man who climbs the social ladder and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay there. This is not your usual Woody Allen film, although he has done similar dark movies before. The film is set in London and has a very British flavor. The film is also more lush visually, appears to have a bigger budget, more exterior shots and more upscale production values than most Woody Allen films. It is not one of Allen's best films, but it is somewhat different than most.

The central character in the film is an ambitious young tennis player, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of “Vanity Fair”) who gives up professional tennis to become a tennis instructor at an upscale country club. He has ambitions beyond this humble status, though. One of his pupils, Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) takes a liking to him and introduces him to his family. Chris is immediately taken with Tom's pretty young fianceé, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson of “Lost in Translation”). Convinced that Nola is not available, he eventually goes after Tom's sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer of “Lovely and Amazing”) and marries her. With Chloe's connections and her family's money, the couple has a very upscale lifestyle.

Eventually, Nola and Tom break up and Nola moves away. Then Nola suddenly moves back to London and Chris runs into her. The two start a torrid affair. Chris is able to keep this a secret from his wife and her wealthy family. If the secret gets out, Chris will lose his new high-paying job and his high-flying lifestyle. The affair begins to affect Chris' job performance and his performance with his wife, who wants to get pregnant. The situation becomes more and more untenable as Chris is torn between his comfortable life and his passion for Chloe. He is finally forced to choose between the two women and the two very different lives he would lead based on that choice.

The film portrays both Chris and Nola as very similar people. Women often marry for money, among other reasons, and this is not considered particularly worthy of comment by non-feminists. Men also have been known to marry for money, but it is less socially acceptable for them to do so. In this story we have a man marrying for money and a woman attempting to do so. Nola's motives are more pure, however, in that she is also willing to marry Chris even though she knows he will lose his job, his money and his social standing if he divorces his wife. Nola's life with Chris will be less comfortable than if she had married Tom.

The movie also has an interesting message about luck. The film uses a metaphor of a tennis ball hitting the top of a net. A ball so hit can bounce almost straight up in the air. If the player hitting the ball is lucky, it will go over the net for a point. If he is unlucky, the ball will bounce backwards and he will lose the point. Chris experiences a bounce like that in the movie in a shot that appears to be digitally animated. Sometimes the idea of luck is expressed in a phrase like “it is better to be lucky than good.” This phrase takes on additional moral meanings in the film's context. Tom expresses a sentiment much like this at the end of this film.

The film looks much slicker than some of Woody Allen's films. Almost all of Woody Allen's films are set in New York City. Most Allen characters are the New York intelligentsia. This one, though set in the British upper class, is more middle class in its tone. The discussion among the characters is not so dominated by the arts, literature, the theater, movies and politics as it is in most Allen films. I did not even spot any Jewish characters in it. The cinematography, by Remi Adefarasin is exceptional. The sets and interiors are impressive. The pace of the film is very slow. It runs a little over two hours, but it seems more like three. The story also seemed predictable and uncompelling. The acting is good, but not really exceptional. Those who don't mind a movie that drags might think this is one of Allen's best films in a long and illustrious career. Others, like myself, see it as a good, but not great effort by a great filmmaker. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)