Film Review: Match Point

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Worse, his monstrous male lead is a seemingly just a serious version of the flip, introspective misogynist Allen himself usually portrays in his semi-autobiographical comedies. In sum, Match Point proves to be an intriguing enough adventure, provided you haven’t seen Crimes and Misdemeanors and don’t mind rooting for a despicable, amoral philanderer

In 1989, Woody Allen made Crimes and Misdemeanors, a psychological thriller about an adulterer wrestling with his desire to murder the mistress threatening to ruin his marriage unless he leaves his wife for her, as promised. With Match Point, the highly-decorated director revives the same theme, though this twisted tale of forbidden love gone wrong is set against the exoskeleton of latter-day London instead of his beloved Manhattan.

The picture has all the elements of a Forties’ film noir classic: a tale of suspense featuring an irresistible but dangerous young woman, a protagonist plagued by moral ambiguity, and cinematography offering acute camera angles and stark visual contrasts of black and white. Yet, Allen’s neo-noir interpretation does partially part company from the genre in that its tension is generated more by ethical questions like “When is it okay to kill to protect one’s reputation?� than by whether the perpetrator will get away with it.

This intriguing saga of ambition and betrayal revolves around Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), the handsome tennis pro at an upscale country club. When we are is introduced to this Irish expatriate, he is subtly scheming to rise above his lowly station in life by ingratiating himself with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), one of his well-heeled, tennis pupils.

Feigning a mutual taste for refined music, Chris one day accepts an invite to join the Hewett family in their private box at the Royal Opera House. In the balcony that evening, the scheming social-climber meets the two women he is about to become embroiled in a love triangle with. One is Tom’s seductive fiancée, Nola (Scarlett Johansson), a struggling actress from Boulder, Colorado; the other is Tom’s relatively shy and retiring sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer).

Despite being instantly smitten with the former, Chris deliberately sets about sweeping the waiting-to-be-wooed wallflower off her feet. Luckily, he is eagerly welcomed into the family by her mother, Eleanor (Penelope Wilton), and offered a plum corporate position by her father, Alec (Brian Cox). And it’s not long before naïve Chloe starts making wedding plans.

Meanwhile, her conniving suitor still secretly lusts for the bee-stung lips of Nola. The elusive femme fatale rebuffs his initial overture with a warning that an illicit liaison would be bad for them both. But his persistence eventually pays off, and the two embark on a dangerous, incestuous series of romps.

The two continue to rendezvous even after Chloe and Chris marry, and after Tom breaks off his engagement to Nola for unrelated reasons. Complications ensue only when Nola informs her lover that she’s pregnant, plans to have the kid, and expects him to abandon his wife, and move in to her modest flat.

Of course, there’s no way a cad like Chris would ever think about giving up the life of leisure he had so systematically and carefully curried. Therefore, as the movie slowly morphs into a Brit variation on Fatal Attraction, the only issue is to what lengths he will go to keep Nola silent about their affair.


Woody Hitchcock does an exquisite job at setting up his meaty, multi-layered mystery.  But because his female characters, all simplistically drawn, remain undeveloped, unlikable archetypes for the duration, the film has little hope for an emotionally-satisfying resolution. Worse, his monstrous male lead is a seemingly just a serious version of the flip, introspective misogynist Allen himself usually portrays in his semi-autobiographical comedies.

In sum, Match Point proves to be an intriguing enough adventure, provided you haven’t seen Crimes and Misdemeanors and don’t mind rooting for a despicable, amoral philanderer.

Very good (3 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, violence and mature themes.
Running time: 124 minutes
Studio: Dreamworks Pictures

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