Match Point
directed by Woody Allen
(Dreamworks, 2005)

In an interview with Australian newspaper The Age, legendary filmmaker Woody Allen, writer and director of 2005's Match Point, said: "Match Point is one of my A-films. It's arguably maybe the best film that I've made. ... With this one everything seemed to come out right. The actors fell in, the photography fell in and the story clicked. I caught a lot of breaks."

Though I am not as well-versed in Woody's films as is often expected of his critics, I agree Match Point is nothing short of great. It's awesome, really. And, partly, this is due to my inability to force the work into a single genre. I've found it impossible, and maybe it's exactly that. Match Point is downright dramatic, but it also carries a share of comedy. It's got passionate romances, but then they step aside for thriller-like sequences. There's even a sprinkle of tragedy mixed in, which all converge to form a highly addictive and refreshingly unpredictable, uh, thing.

For the unaware, Match Point is the story of a former tennis professional (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who, at first glance, falls in love with the girlfriend of friend Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode). Unable to overcome the fact that that Hewett's girlfriend (Scarlett Johannson) cannot be his, the tennis pro temporarily settles for Hewett's sister (Emily Mortimer). And then things get twisted, so to speak.

Now, this may seem like sufficient plot to fill the average Hollywood film, but Match Point is neither average nor traditionally Hollywood. The given synopsis only satisfies the first 20 minutes or so because, of course, there is still betrayal, birth and -- oh yes -- death to contend with! I mean, talk about being unexpectedly blindsided again and again. I haven't been this schooled by honest, creative storytelling since, well, ever.

And it must be said, Johannson plays it flawlessly sexy as the innocent, yet devilish Nola Rice. Let's just say she stole more than just the heart of on-screen partner Meyers with her Golden Globe-nominated performance as girl-next-door meets hard-to-get oddity. At times you adore her, other times you can't stand her, but she finds a way back to your good side, every time. So strange.

Of course, no film is flawless. At 125 minutes, Match Point comes in a tad too long, maybe. It never quite felt like a two-hour film, but its runtime is bound to deter some viewers -- shame on them! -- from giving this one a whirl. And as good as the unexpected can be -- because, believe me, this one carries a heck of an ending -- I'm still up in arms about its final few scenes. The film is satisfying, no question. But at the same time, I can't decide whether the motives were clear enough to justify Match Point's climax.

Even so, this one is an absolute ride. And Woody, if this isn't an "A-film," as you call it, I don't know what is.

review by
Eric Hughes

17 November 2007

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