Sunday, February 5, 2006

Match Point

Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a retired pro tennis player tired of the game, is hired at an exclusive tennis club in London to give lessons to its wealthy members. He practices with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) and they become friendly. Chris says he loves opera, and Tom promptly invites him to the theater to see "La Traviata" - a tragedy - and to sit in his family’s box. There Chris meets Tom’s Sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and she is immediately attracted.


When Chris visits the family’s country house he meets the gorgeous Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), Tom’s fiancĂ©. Nola is a struggling American actress and Tom’s parents disapprove. A few weeks later, again at the country house, when Mrs. Hewitt (Penelope Wilton) insults Nola after a failed audition, she runs out into the rain. Chris, who is smitten with Nola, runs after her and seduces her.


Back and forth, back and forth, goes the plot point, like a tennis ball. Sometimes the ball hits the net, as the intro narrative tells us, and with some luck, it falls into the opponent’s court and you win; with bad luck, it falls back into yours, and you lose.


The family goes to see another Verdi opera, this time "Rigoletto", another tragedy.


Chris and Chloe marry and Chris takes a job at her father’s company. Tom, however, meets someone else and breaks it off with Nola. She disappears. For awhile.


And that’s all I can tell you. I went into the film thinking that Nola would be a siren, but …


I also went into the film with the words of critics in my ears: this is a new Woody Allen (who wrote and directed it) but it is not. It’s a re-make of Crimes and Misdemeanors without any humor (if one can call Allen’s neurotic behavior funny.) The theme continues to be existential angst over providence vs. luck, and over the consequences of the choices we make. I won’t give away the last half of the film, but if you know Crimes and Misdemeanors, you’ll see it’s footprints throughout.



The film is also a bit tedious. The tennis ball kept going back and forth, back and forth, like a neurotic person who cannot make up his mind about reality or if it really matters if we choose good or evil.


I thought Johansson was superb, as was Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as the cowardly and afflicted-for-the-wrong reasons, Chris.


Match Point is a well-made big-budget kind of film; it is worth the price of the ticket. But be prepared. It’s intense and in the end, rather sad in more ways than one. It would be a good film, like Crimes and Misdemeanors, to have a conversation about.

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