Thursday, January 05, 2006

MATCH POINT - a return to form for Woody Allen

I love Woody Allen films, but let's be clear about what we mean by that. I reckon that, crudely speaking, there are 3 types of Allen movie. First, we have the early slapstick movies such as Bananas, and Take the Money and Run. They're hsyterical. Second, we have the terse relationship comedies. By and large, these are the ones that won the Oscars and made his name - movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan. Finally, we have Woody Allen's dark moral investigations - self-absorbed people doing horrible, unforgiveable things. These, I feel are his best movies. So when you decide whether to see MATCH POINT, you have to be clear on what you are getting. This is not a cute 1970s romantic comedy. It is a dark, nasty little film - a film far more in the tradition of searing emotional dramas like Hannah and her Sisters, Husbands and Wives and Crimes and Misdemeanors. Indeed some people have gone so far as to say that it is even better than C&D which is, in my opinion, going too far. (C&D is in my movie pantheon.) Nonetheless, I think that this is a fantastic movie.

MATCH POINT is the first of the three Woody Allen movies set in London. It tells the tale of a poor tennis coach who becomes intimate with an upper-class family, eventually marrying the daughter while bedding the son's actress girlfriend. It tells of his struggle to reconcile his comfortable married life with his passion for the actress. Finally it is a discussion about how justice is or is not afforded to us in real life.

The movie is a complete success in terms of character and plot. So often we hear of movies marketed on the strength of their "surprise ending". Well, here is a final twist that doesn't feel false and makes for compelling viewing. The acting is superlative. The soundtrack is also worthy of note. For once, Woody has moved away from using jazz standards to excerpts from Verdi and Bizet with great effect.

Some critics have complained that Woody presents us with a picture-postcard view of London - all red buses, Houses of Parliament and champagne at the tennis club. I would argue that far from falling into Notting Hill and Love, Actually-style cliche, Woody Allen is deliberately making a contrast between the enviable, almost picture-perfect, lifestyle of the upper class family and the sordid, petty reality. This is exactly what he did in Manhattan. We had Gordon Wills stunning black and white photography of New York, with Gershwin's beautiful score, and in counter-point, lots of neurotic, self-absorbed characters being pathetic.

Should you go see MATCH POINT? Yes. But remember, this is not a quirky date movie. If you just want to see Scarlett Johansen get her kit off, you can rent The Island instead.

Alternatively, for a negative review of this flick, replete with plot spoilers, check out my mate,
Nik's review.

MATCH POINT went on release in France in October. It goes on limited release in the US and on general release in Germany and Austria on the 29th December . It goes on general release in the UK on the 6th January and in the US on the 20th January 2006


  1. Pfffft. You've been Ebert's review, now see the kid gloves come off in Siskel's:


  2. I can see why you might think that the movie is "artificial" in terms of dialogue and characterisation - but I am surprised that you were not impressed by Jonathan Rhys Meyer's acting. I thought the array of emotion shown on his face in the final half hour was tremendous. And as for cheesy pick up lines, if you had lived but one Saturday night as a woman you would realise that that really is how men talk!

  3. I live life as a woman all the time, you just don't know about it, because I keep it quiet like.

    I thought the array of emotion on his face was impressive - in that the plot demanded a lot of emotions from him. Problem being, he didn't act them very well. At all. Especially around his floosy. And I can't blame it all on the clunky dialogue and poor plot he was lumbered with, I wasn't convinced even at the best of times.

    I'm going to try some cheesy type pick up lines. "Has anyone ever told you you have very fullsome breasts," I'll ask the next person I play table tennis with. I just hope it's a woman.

  4. Yeah will I still stand by Woody. Cheese works. I know a guy who sent a girl a tape of Morrissey songs with the instruction to go to a certain time-code. The girl did, only to hear Morrissey sing, "I want to get my hands on your mammory glands." In another case, Niko reckons his entire success is down to being "obvious" and "persistent"....

  5. Obviously and persistently a cock?

  6. There's no accounting for taste ;)

  7. I finally saw it and loved it. It made me think about how it's easier that we sacrifice passion rather than comfort.

  8. I agree. We watch love stories because we like to think of ourselves as romantics - there's a bit of hard truth in this flick. Personally, I'd murder my grandma for air-con and a hair dryer hehehehe

  9. I saw the movie last night and found myself very disturbed by it. I still can't get the murders out of my head - it's not like watching Law and Order.

    The story 'works' on multiple levels: as a love story, as a social climber's story, as a story about justice and luck. The tragic notes, with the opera and the Greek semi-chorus ('conscience') at the end worked for me - but then again, I'm a Woody Allen fan.

    I think Bina's review had it mostly right, but I agree with the criticism in the comments about the acting. The quality of some of the acting, particularly by the main character, was clearly the weakest point of the movie - not, by any stretch, enough to sink the movie, but enough to notice.