Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Match Point

Written and directed by Woody Allen, it surprisingly doesn't feel like what I would have expected from an Allen film, nor did I think that I had the patience to sit through one. However, this movie had converted me to wanna watch what Allen had to say in his earlier movies, not that this movie, in my opinion, is representative of the legendary director's style.

Match Point, through its trailers, looked like another Closer, with its look at one aspect of the modern spousal relationship - that of adultery and fidelity. However, Closer had a more sophisticated plot and relationship tangles amongst the chief characters, while Match Point took on a more straightforward approach. You could say it's like The Talented Mr. Ripley, with the similar focus on one man and his actions to deceive all around him.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Chris Wilton, an ex-tennis professional turned coach in England. He befriends one of his students Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), and is somewhat smittened by his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Being aimless and at a cross junction of his life, Chloe and her wealthy family presents Chris a possible path down a ready made high flying boardroom career and a stable family.

But of course, the fun and trouble comes in the form of Tom's fiancee Nola Rice, the one with the come-hither looks, played to scandalous perfection by Scarlett Johansson. It's a dilemma to men with the lack of self-control, as Chris goes all out to straddle two boats, and starts to question which is love, and which is lust.

One cannot expect to take the cake, and eat it as well. What was really neat is the presentation of the dilemma in a cold, calculated manner - do you want to continue being with your wife who endears herself to you, for all the material comfort enjoyed thus far and knowing that you have a known future laid out in front of you, or would you seek to give them all up to be with someone volatile, with an uncertain future for both when you seek to choose the mistress?

This is possibly Allen's longest film to date, and it really feels that way. He takes the time to set up the entire premise, treating us to operas as the philandering Chris enjoys marital (and economic) bliss, while at the same time scheming to bed his mistress regularly on the side with loads of quickies. But the beauty of it is in the second act, where what exactly will go wrong in such an adulterous relationship, will.

The final act, while probably fitting for a man in extreme desperation, seemed a bit too Hollywood, despite this being done in collaboration with BBCFilms. It relied too much on Luck, just as the opening sequence of the determination of a match point when the ball hits the net. It's plainly simple - either side will mean you'll either win or lose.

Rhys-Meyers put on a convincing performance as the guilt-ridden, pleasure seeking Chris, with his loathing of being with his wife, and oh-so-eager puppy dog looks when being with his mistress. At least while she's still not that demanding. As I mentioned, Johansson played the sexy-come-hither chick to perfection, but somehow I felt that she lacked the ability to exude the emotional depth of a mistress who steps up her almost impossible to meet demands from a man who cannot decide, or have the strength to tell his wife of his affairs. Glenn Close she is not.

So be warned that this film might seem to plod on, with scenes that you might think could be excluded to tighten up the pace. However, do pay attention to the dialogue, as it often proves rewarding, and to those who are thinking of having affairs, think twice - the trouble when you happen to get yourself attached to an emotional wreck, could be tough to deal with. Luck may not be on your side.

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