Film review by: Witney Seibold
Sometimes I wonder how often Woody Allen has been caught cheating on a girlfriend or spouse; his movies always seem to be about it. And while his films are usually (but not always) light comedies on the subject of infidelity, and his characters end up with the right person at the end, he will dip into the true tragedy and betrayal associated with the activity. Think Crimes & Misdemeanors, or Manhattan, usually considered his better films. With his newest film, and his second this year, Allen has made another masterful tragedy of cheating which may not be a new story, but is a very well-told one. It’s his best film in years.
Chris (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a tennis instructor of limited means living in London. He befriends a very rich young man, Tom (Matthew Goode), and is soon being spirited off to operas and croquet tourneys and other activities enjoyed by the British upper-upper-crust. He is also introduced to Tom’s sister (Emily Mortimer) who fancies him. He, however, has his sights set on American vamp Nola (Scarlett Johansson), Tom’s girlfriend. Chris ends up marrying Tom’s sister, and is subsequently set up with a high-paying job, nice clothes, a driver, and other showers of wealth. He also begins having an affair with Nola, which soon becomes uncomfortably intense. Chris, of course, has not the courage to give up his newly formed high-end lifestyle for a few months of passionate shagging with Nola. He trusts in his life philosophy to free him from the situation: it is better to be lucky than to be skilled or even good. There are other twists in the story, and rather than reveal them I will say only: Tragedy can only follow.
Woody Allen’s films have often been populated by high-minded well-to-do intellectuals who discuss McLuhan and listen to opera. Match Point is no different, but by transposing this story to England, we get the sort of wry, self-belittling humor that comes so naturally to Brits, and are spared the whininess of Allen’s usual rich Americans. The infidelity is handled with skill, and rather than callow cheating idiots who spend all day playing Musical Beds, we get to see the moral cores of the characters. Especially Chris who, at the end of the day, is less than a man ruled by his loins, but is, at his core, a truly evil human being.
December 28th, DreamWorks pictures