Sunday, January 08, 2006
Match Point: Zero Love
As one critic's review after another waxed poetic about the deeper meaning and depth behind Woody Allen's latest film "Match Point," I couldn't help being a little intrigued. Praised as being the director's best film in years and one that would fully demonstrate his nihilistic worldview, Match Point promised to offer up a look at life as nothing more than a series of events occuring purely by chance -- or better yet, luck. Critics were all too eager to jump on the bandwagon, praising the film for doing exactly that. Whether or not the film actually delivers - on any level - is another question.
Match Point is more than a story of supposed blind luck, it is a story of moral bankruptcy replete with underhanded and vainly concealed attempts to push its agenda on the audience.
Set in London, the film follows the undertakings of Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a struggling Irish tennis pro turned instructor who - as the narrator suggests - is neither good nor lucky. But his so-called luck changes when he takes on a student named Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) and is introduced to his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) a rich socialite who is clearly determined to make Chris her own. However lucky Chris is to meet this woman, whose father practically buys him as a gift for his daughter, turning him seemingly overnight from a sweaty tennis instructor to a business man clad in a three piece suit, his luck seems to be cut short when he meets and is instantly taken by Nola Rice (Scarlet Johansson), Tom's fiance.
On nearly every level - not the least of which is beauty - Nola is Chloe's opposite and Chris' match. As a struggling actress from America, Nola hangs on to her diminishing dreams only to show other people that she can make it. Chris also has ambitions to rise above his circumstances (as he tells Chloe rather lamely, "I want to do something more with my life. I want to make a contribution") and in the two siblings it seems that Chris and Nola have found their way to the top. But would a writer/director as pessimistic as Allen allow these characters to have such luck?
Despite marrying Chloe and "making it" to the height of London business (thanks to Chloe's dad and his willingness to bring him into the family business), Chris continues a secret affair with Nola that began before his marraige and before Tom decides to give Nola the boot for another woman. Though Allen pushes and prods the audience to believe that the events that follow are merely a matter of chance, they are clearly a matter of choice.
On every level, Match Point is little more than a tease. Promising to deliver romance and passion, deeper meaning and social commentary, it fails on every count. The love scenes between Chris and Nola start off as enticing and provocative but are maddeningly cut short. Instead, Allen would rather show us a window and the snow falling outside, as though the weather mattered. The scenes are so contrived and tentative that it's impossible to ever discern whether Chris actually loves either of the two women in his life (or bed). All that is clear is that nearly every character in the film lacks a moral compass and that the audience is to believe that it's not Chris' moral repugnance that we should mind, but the sad "truth" that there is no deeper meaning to any of it.
Recalling the scores of reviews that promised the film would take sudden unexpected twists and turns, I held out hope that the film would redeem itself -- but there is no redemption in Allen's world. Where the film ultimately takes you is where you are reluctant to go, but unfortunately the reins are in the hand of a director bent on making a point that never really gets off the ground.
To say that the film leaves you cold is an understatement. While it may seem that Match Point is an artistic portrayal of the battle between love and lust (or in this case, greed and whichever), it is a film with no heart. It is not the world that the characters inhabit that is devoid of meaning or God or justice, it is the screenplay -- and it is a very showy and obvious attempt to push this worldview on its audience.
To borrow from the somewhat corny theme that is paralleled throughout the film... In this case, the point was served, but for this reviewer, it utterly failed to make it over the net.
Match Point is rated R for some sexuality