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Overall Rating
4.02

Awesome: 29.67%
Worth A Look51.65%
Just Average: 12.09%
Pretty Crappy: 4.4%
Sucks: 2.2%

9 reviews, 37 user ratings


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Match Point
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Woody crosses the pond for his best work in years"
5 stars

“Match Point” is the latest film from Woody Allen and there is a good chance that your eyes are already beginning to glaze over at the very mention of Allen’s name. After all, despite a still-amazing 26-year streak of generally impressive films extending from 1971's “Bananas” through the thoroughly underrated 1997 effort “Deconstructing Harry”–punctuated only by the occasional misstep like “A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy” or “Shadows and Fog”–his work in the last few years has taken a shocking downturn in quality; it is hard to believe that the man behind the woeful likes of “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and “Anything Else” had even seen a Woody Allen movie before, let alone been responsible for them. Even the advance buzz suggesting that the film is a return to artistic form isn’t exactly encouraging either as his last few efforts to be designated as comeback films–“Small Time Crooks” and “Melinda and Melinda” leap to mind–may have looked good in comparison to “Celebrity” or “Hollywood Ending” but to put them up against genuine Allen classics like “Stardust Memories,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” or any number of other titles is to show just how far his stock has fallen. And after being burned so many times in the recent past, I suppose you could hardly be blamed for chalking it off as just another Allen film that can easily passed over for the likes of “Bloodrayne” or “Grandma’s Boy.”

If that turns out to be true, then it will be a tragic case of The Auteurist Who Cried Wolf because “Match Point” really is worth a good deal of the advanced critical hype it has received since premiering at Cannes last spring. It may not quite be the top-shelf masterpiece that some have suggested but it is by far his strongest effort in a long time and the first to suggest that it has been made from a genuine desire to tell a story instead of simply trying to stay afloat in an industry that has grown increasingly hostile to his particular style of filmmaking. .In fact, if you had no idea what the film was and somehow missed the opening credits, there is hardly anything on display, aside from a couple of overt literary allusions, that suggests what one has come to expect from a “Woody Allen film.”

Set in London (see what I mean?), the film stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Chris Wilton, an Irish tennis player whose ambition unfortunately exceeded his talent on the professional circuit. As the story opens, he has moved to London to work as the tennis pro at an ultra-exclusive club. He gets an immediate lucky break when he strikes up a friendship with his first student, the rich and well-bred Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode). Before long, Tom invites Chris to visit with his family and Chris catches the eye of Tom’s sweet sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and before too long, she is asking her father (Brian Cox) if there might be a position open in one of his companies for such a charming go-getter. Chris proves to be a success at work, he and Chloe soon marry and it appears that for once, the breaks seem to be going his way.

There is one fly in the ointment, an exceptionally curvy and sexy one named Nola (Scarlett Johansson) who is both a struggling American actress and Tom’s fiancee–much to the consternation of his snooty parents. Chris meets her at that same initial family gathering, over a flirtatious game of Ping-Pong, and is immediately smitten. At first, he ignores these feelings–Chloe is the safer and more dependable bet–but eventually he and Nola begin a mad and passionate affair that only ends when she and Tom eventually break up (because he met someone new) and she returns to America. Some time passes and Chris’s now-routine married life is given a jolt when Nola returns. The affair begins again and Chris is content to juggle everything until Nola announces that there is now an additional complication–one that is already a couple of months along–and that she wants him to “do the right thing.” Chris is torn–since his personal and professional lives are tied together so tightly, to leave Chloe would be disastrous but the increasingly emotional and hysterical Nola has vowed to tell the family herself if he won’t–and desperately tries to figure a way out of the situation that won’t hurt everyone. What he is really looking for, of course, is a way out that won’t hurt him personally or professionally.

What his solution is and whether it works or not is something that I will leave for you to discover–all I will say is that even if you think you know exactly what will happen next, you will find any number of genuinely unexpected surprises and twists in store. This is particularly intriguing because he is telling what should be a familiar story–the story on the surface sounds like equal parts “Crime and Punishment” (which Chris is significantly spotted reading early on), any number of film noirs that you could mention and especially the serious section of Allen’s own “Crimes and Misdemeanors”–yet always manages to find a fresh way to approach the material. Instead of loading things one way or another either by making Chloe a humorless frump or Nola a heartless and troublemaking slut, thereby making Chris’s decision and actions easier to take, Allen paints both in sympathetic terms–Chloe is a sweet and sexy charmer that most rational people would give their eyeteeth to be with while Nola is more of a confused young woman who is nearly as world-weary as she pretends and whose threats against Chris are borne not out of maliciousness but out of genuine fear and worry about what will happen to her and her child. And since Chris is less a bad person than he is a weak and spineless one, we find ourselves sort of sympathizing with him as well–this leads to any number of squirmy moments when we are appalled by his actions yet we still find ourselves sort of hoping that he gets away with them.

Like his central character, Allen is also working outside of his normal comfort zone–both geographically (by shooting in London, where an overt class system still exists, instead of New York) and artistically (by telling a story that is neither a comedy nor a Bergmanesque chamber piece)–but unlike Chris, the change seems to have done wonders for him as a filmmaker. While his last few efforts have felt like tossed-off exercises–just a bunch of long master shots strung together–“Match Point” feels like a story that he genuinely wants to tell and that he has actually put some thought into how to tell it from a cinematic standpoint. The actors, all excellent (especially Johansson and Mortimer, who is equally strong in a less showy role), feel like they are playing real people and not just extensions of characters that Allen has given us before. As for the film, it moves with a simple fluid grace that he hasn’t shown since “Hannah and Her Sisters”–for once, he seems to have enough faith in himself as a storyteller to give us a straightforward and serious-minded narrative without larding it with painfully obvious symbolism or strange comic relief.

What remains to be seen is whether “Match Point” is the harbinger of a new creative period for Woody Allen or if it merely just an aberration in his otherwise disappointing period. Of course, this is kind of an unfair question–Allen has given us so many great films over the years that he could stop now and be assured of his place in the pantheon (more so if he had stopped in 1997)–but it is one that will be asked. I cannot speculate on the answer–although the fact that he has already completed another film, this one a newspaper comedy, in London with Johansson and is planning a new film to shoot in Spain suggests that the creative juices are flowing again. However, it is indicative of the quality of “Match Point” that such a question can once again be asked with a straight face.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13671&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/06/06 00:20:52
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User Comments

11/10/15 David H. A very sexy Hitchcockian throwback. 5 stars
8/13/15 Langano Very good. 4 stars
8/08/10 Monday Morning A better Hitchcock movie than any Hitchcock movie. 5 stars
11/23/08 Samantha Pruitt very effective, keeps you on the edge of your seat, great acting! 5 stars
10/30/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
5/21/08 PAUL SHORTT BAD CHARACTERS MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO FEEL THE HORROR THAT IT IS CLEARLY AIMING FOR 1 stars
11/15/07 Luisa Great Movie! Suspenseful...erotic... 4 stars
5/14/07 David Pollastrini Scarlett Looks hot in this! 3 stars
1/23/07 Christopher Best movie of 2005, Allen at his best. Loved every minute of this classic. Watch it. 5 stars
9/16/06 Grets A fine film with Scarlett gorgeous but ending somewhat lazy 4 stars
6/03/06 Indrid Cold Given the generic plot, it's about as good as it could be. Nothing to write home about. 4 stars
6/02/06 Phil M. Aficionado So-so. Well made and acted. But it left me cold and I don't care enough to ponder why. 3 stars
5/08/06 Monday Morning Great tension and surprising twists; but it could have been tightened up for sake of pace. 4 stars
5/07/06 Josephine i really liked this movie, it was something different not your regular love affair 5 stars
4/22/06 Mase Slow thriller, unlikable characters you just don't care about. Expected more, sorry. 3 stars
4/21/06 margotkidding Overhyped. Well executed, but none of the characters is recognizably human. 3 stars
4/04/06 Jenny Tullwartz The role ScarletJohansen was born for -- a botch who gets shit --uh, a bitch who gets shot. 3 stars
3/06/06 john bale Woody back in form - albeit with Hitchcock overtones. 4 stars
2/27/06 sbpat21 brilliant; a masterpiece 5 stars
2/24/06 PAG Most underrated move of 2005. Great movie. 5 stars
2/22/06 Koitus GREAT movie! Finally, a "movie for ADULTS." Scarlett beautiful as ever. 5 stars
2/18/06 jcjss so fine, clever, neat, fun, rascal, hot, smart, visually fine, edtied great, acting wow 5 stars
2/09/06 BILL HART LOVED IT; CUT THE GHOST SCENE! SOME TIGHTENING NEEDED AT END! 4 stars
2/06/06 Elizabeth S A terrific role for the always excellent Jonathan Rhys Meyers! 4 stars
1/24/06 Mike V Best Woody Allen Movie in years 4 stars
1/22/06 astrotart I thought I saw this already on Lifetime? 2 stars
1/22/06 Andrew Phillips It's the director who tries to get away with murder. 2 stars
1/21/06 Ole Man Bourbon Crap. A chore. You banged Sun Yi, get over it, we're sick of hearing about it. 2 stars
1/18/06 karen and liz lil romeo is so sexy 5 stars
1/17/06 marty derivative, shaggy dog story 2 stars
1/09/06 John an extremly tense and well put together thriller - impressive 5 stars
1/09/06 C. Hilton Lousy - no redeeming value - 1 stars
1/08/06 Gil Carlson Great film, has depth and movement. Makes you think afterwards. 5 stars
12/30/05 Jim The Movie Freak Welcome back Woody. It only took you 20 years! 5 stars
12/28/05 simolife24 cinema 4 stars
12/28/05 Bruce Bethany A masterpiece Hitchcock might envy. 5 stars
12/19/05 Ray Superb 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Dec-2005 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006

UK
  06-Jan-2006 (12A)

Australia
  02-Mar-2006




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