MATCH POINT

Woody Allen is inextricably tied to New York City. If there’s a new film from the veteran comedian/director you can bet that it will be set in the Big Apple and Allen’s usual blend of neurotic comedy – often centred around couples either falling in or out of love – will be the staple for the 90 minute duration of the film. I am no Allen expert, I haven’t seen Annie Hall, but of what I’ve watched (Celebrity, Small Time Crooks) I like.

Allen has carved out a niche for himself in the film world which has allowed him to craft the films he wants to make. Small and almost always independent they repeat his formula style – and success – and if there is a complaint to be made it is this: his films, while quirky and funny are often predictable. Not predictable in terms of plot or characters but in terms of feel. Think Woody Allen and in most cases you think quirky comedy.

When retired ex-professional tennis player Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) meets rich socialite Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) and his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) he is drawn into their world and affluent lifestyle. As Chris develops a friendship with Tom and a relationship with Chloe he finds himself being groomed, ever so subtly at first, to become a member of the Hewett family. Chris doesn’t seem to mind, content with the way his life is progressing (there is a theme of luck that runs throughout the film) but that is until he meets Tom’s fiancée, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), an American actress. Chris becomes instantly obsessed after meeting her.

With Match Point (nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay earlier this year) Woody Allen produces what, at first, may seem like his traditional film fare but as the movie progresses things take a decidedly darker turn that is so un-Allen like that I found it mesmerizing. (And, surprisingly, it’s set in London, not New York.)

Things start out sweetly enough in usual Allen fashion but as Chris’ obsession with Nola grows and he finds himself in even more complicated situations, as a result of his sneaking around, the story becomes extremely twisted. I certainly didn’t expect what Allen had planned for his characters towards the end of the film.

I won’t say what that is but rest assured it makes for great cinema and something I’ve never seen in a Woody Allen film.

The every attractive Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Last seen in Mission Impossible: III) – who seems increasingly set for mainstream stardom – produces one of many great performances in this ensemble comedy-drama. Chloe’s naivety and controlling demeanour are portrayed brilliantly by Emily Mortimer who proves with this performance that she is an actress of immense depth – why she wasted her talent on the recent Pink Panther remake we’ll never know.

Throughout the film Scarlett Johansson is unwittingly seductive. I say unwittingly because her character is not your typical femme-fatale as she has been described by some. Rather she is a woman who initially utilises her sexual prowess to flirt with Chris but when things get too heated she breaks it off. Chris then pursues her. Without realizing it, however, that initial encounter sets her up as a femme and the fate they often have to endure. She is a woman of circumstance or bad luck as Chris would like us to believe. It’s a tantalizing role for the young actress, and one which she pulls off.

The dreary London setting adds to the claustrophobia Chris seems to experience in his marriage to Chloe. It left me wondering if the real world weather and city had any impact on the writing of this story.

If Woody Allen isn’t usually your cup of tea I urge you to reconsider when it comes to Match Point. Allen has crafted a film that will broaden the perception people have of him and his films and one that has instilled within me a newfound respect for the director. Stick with this movie and you will be rewarded.

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