Match Point

London is one of the best things to happen to Woody Allen in a long time.  Match Point is the first film Allen (Melinda and Melinda, Anything Else) has made across the pond, and it is refreshingly different from much of his recent work.  Allen has basically been in a rut.  Most of his recent films feel similar and pretty stale.  They take place somewhere in or around Manhattan.  Allen is typically in the film, and if not, there is a main actor who can easily be seen as somebody representing Allen.  Jazz is typically the main element of the soundtrack (nothing wrong with that).  Match Point has none of these elements.  There is no obvious Allen doppelganger.  Opera is the only music playing.  Match Point opts for bleakness and drama over comedy, and best of all, it allows Allen to tap into a whole new group of actors.  It's good to see that somebody like Allen, who has been around forever, still has a few new tricks up his sleeve.

It's also interesting to note that Match Point has very few truly likable characters.  Everybody is out to get something, typically from somebody else.  Chief among them is Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Alexander, Vanity Fair), an ex-professional tennis player.  He's currently teaching tennis at a posh club, but wants something more to his life.  Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode, Chasing Liberty, South from Granada) is one of his students, and the two take an instant liking to each other.  Tom invites Chris to an opera performance with his family, where Chris meets Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer, Dear Frankie, Bright Young Things), who takes an instant liking to him.  Before he realizes it, he is deep in a relationship with her.

It's a pretty bizarre relationship too.  The Hewetts are filthy rich, and Chloe's father Alec (Brian Cox, The Ringer, Red Eye) has no qualms about throwing money at them.  He gives Chris a new job, and soon Chris finds himself living a very comfortable life.  However, he feels bored with Chloe.  Tom's fiancee Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson, The Island, In Good Company) intrigues him much more. She is a struggling American actress, a fact that Tom's mother Eleanor (Penelope Wilton, Pride & Prejudice, Shaun of the Dead) highly disapproves of.  Chris is immediately attracted to her, and they consummate their relationship out in a rain-soaked country field.  Afterwards, Chris wants to continue the relationship, but Nola is uncomfortable going any further.

Allen is also working with a plot more complex than his typical fare.  Things get more complex when Match Point flashes forward about a year.  Chris and Chloe are married, and Tom broke off his engagement to Nola, who promptly disappeared.  Chris is more bored than ever, and when he accidentally encounters Nola, the two engage in a torrid affair.  He loves Nola for the passion she has.  His relationship with Chloe has been reduced to mechanical lovemaking; the two are trying very hard to conceive.  Chris finds himself lying to Chloe more, trying to do everything he can to steal away for time with Nola.  It's hard to empathize with Chloe, only because she is so vapid.  She is becoming very domineering in her marriage, and is essentially a spoiled rich kid who lives off her father.  Nola has some redeeming qualities, but still continues the affair. As time passes and Chris continues to assure her that he will leave Chloe, Nola gets becomes angrier, threatening to tell all to Chloe. At this point, Match Point takes a very dark turn. Chris needs to decide how to resolve the situation, and he is extreme cold and calculating about it. It is the richest performance Rhys-Meyers has given, combining his smoldering sexuality with a hint of psychopath. Chris has to make some difficult choices, and it is hypnotic watching him make the wrongs ones and dealing with the emotional aftermath.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 4 minutes, Rated R for some sexuality.

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