Films

Published on April 10th, 2006 | by Hans Fruck

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Match Point

Jimmy was a horrid barn-dancer

Jimmy was a horrid barn-dancer

Perhaps blinded by the disorientating impact of a foreign accent and a handsome face, Woody Allen has mistaken Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a capable lead. His faith in Scarlett Johansson is, presumably, part of Hollywood’s general misapprehension of this coquettish kid as a femme fatale. You can sort of see why he thought they were a good match, but unfortunately they are just equally awful.

Match Point, in which the two beautiful kids are paired, follows the fortunes of an ex-tennis pro who has fought his way up from the Irish ghetto to the fringes of the British gentry. While coaching for an exclusive sports club, the quietly ambitious Chris Wilton befriends an extremely wealthy young sophisticate named Tom, through whom Chris is introduced to both his future wife, Chloe, and his future mistress, Nola.

As Chris climbs the social ladder we come to understand that we are watching a game of strategy rather than a meaningful study of human relationships, but his maneuvering is ultimately meaningless. We are warned from the outset, by way of a tennis metaphor, that Woody’s cold imagination of an English parlour drama is an elegy to luck, and not virtue, so we spend most of the film waiting for the other shoe to drop. Chris’ behaviour may be sly, stupid, morally reprehensible, even understandable – but in the end we want to know just one thing: is he a lucky man? Why he makes the choices he does and how those choices impact on the people around him are viewed from a polite distance, the film unspooling with glassy conversation and characterisation until the clever cleverness of its final act. And in the end, despite the grandeur of its design, it teaches us only that Woody Allen is a smug nihilist with bad taste in actors and zero sensitivity for the English upper classes…which is all a bit pointless and annoying. God grant us another Annie Hall. I like him better when all he’s trying to do is make us laugh.

— Simone Ubaldi


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