Given Woody Allen's recent track record, no one saw "Match Point" coming. Sure, "Small Time Crooks" and "Curse of the Jade Scorpion" were amusing, but "Hollywood Ending" was a disaster. People have been saying that Allen's best work is decades behind him. And then there's "Match Point."
"Match Point" is not a comedy. Nor does it look or feel like a Woody Allen film. Allen never appears in the movie, even though he wrote and directed it. About an affair that goes dangerously wrong, "Match Point" follows Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) as he moves up the social ladder, a la Becky Sharp. Starting out as a tennis pro at a prestigious London facility, he soon falls within the friendship of Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), a young man from an extremely rich family. Chris begins a relationship with Tom's sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), but soon realizes he really has eyes for a struggling American actress named Nola (Scarlett Johansson) - unfortunately, Nola is Tom's fiancée. While his relationship with Chloe turns to marriage, Chris and Nola's love for one another develop to an even stronger level, but the affair threatens to destroy Chris and the entire Hewett family. With everything on the line, Chris must make a difficult decision to save everything...
Spellbound. I was absolutely spellbound while watching this movie. I was expecting a good little romantic thriller, but not an amazing drama that deserved its Golden Globe nomination. Strangely enough, I watched this movie the same day I watched "The New World" - my number one pick of the year. "Match Point" is a close second. I waited for more than a year to watch an award-worthy film, and was fearing I would see none for the year of 2005, but in the same day I saw my first and second picks. Needless to say, it was a good day...
Rhys-Meyers is terrific in the lead, exuding an innocent sleaziness that makes us root for him even though he's cheating on his wife. His character ends up having little redeemable value, but at the same time he is essentially a good guy who has made some fatal mistakes. Johansson is good in a supporting role, though compared to some of her other performances she neither shows the talent nor gets the chance to really shine. Other cast members including Goode, Mortimer and Cox are very good in their respective roles.
On top of everything else, kudos have to go to Allen for delivering a surprise out of left field. The movie plays out like an old-fashioned thriller, complete with opera music and static cuts. He takes his time developing the characters and the situation and never rushes to get to the purpose of the film, while at the same time maintaining a good pace. It was amazing how into the film the audience got - people would laugh, people would cringe, and people would just react in various ways to a variety of events in the movie. When Chris makes his big decision, "Match Point" also becomes extremely tense and suspenseful, and things don't let up until the closing credits.
"Match Point" is one of the best movies of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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