For anyone who enjoys the odd Woody Allen movie without necessarily waiting for each new one with bated breath, Match Point may come as a surprise. And not just because it’s his first film to not even be partially set in New York; Match Point showcases Allen taking on the genre of tragedy (in the Shakespearean sense) rather than the bittersweet relationship studies which characterise his best loved films such as Annie Hall or Hannah and her Sisters.
In fact, there’s not a neurotic male character obsessing about his sexual prowess in sight. The characters are, for the large part, either cold and calculating or oblivious to anything other than the proliferation of the English upper class gene pool.
The only exception is Nola, Scarlett Johansson’s irresistable yet insecure temptress, who breathes a little humanity into the otherwise soulless set of characters. By unwittingly luring Jonathan Rhys Meyers away from his wife and lifestyle that her wealth and family offers, she unlocks the dark side of his ambition.
Johansson plays her part magnificently: she’s effortlessly sexy and vulnerable without being irritating – but is the only character in the film worthy of empathy. Rhys Meyers, on the other hand, makes uncomfortable watching as he makes the transition from seemingly aimless philandering social climber into… well, I shouldn’t give the plot away. It doesn’t help, I should add, that since his Velvet Goldmine days JRM has become the spitting image of Will Young.
The film is well-acted with a sterling cast, which includes Penelope Wilton, Ewen Bremner and James Nesbitt. But somehow, the semi-improvised nature of Allen’s films is less watchable with British accents, particularly the posh ones. They only serve to recall the lofty smugness of Four Weddings without the self-effacing humour.
The film explores familiar themes including the nature of lust for money, power, sex etc, and the film noire plotline, given Allen’s track record, is surprisingly unadventurous. The central theme of the film, however, is the idea of luck overriding morality, stated clearly at the beginning with the statement: “The man who said ‘I’d rather be lucky than good’ saw deeply into life.”
In this sense, the film works, showing that success has little to do with good or evil – it’s rather all down to luck. Which is a fair point. But next time, why not tell me something I didn’t know already?