Keeping pace for the Woody love-fest, I deposit this review of the latest entry in the Allen opus. With the nadir of Allen's career some twenty years past, his recent films are either intelligent insights (Deconstructing Harry) or self-indulgent caricatures (Curse of the Jade Scorpion). Luckily for us, Match Point falls into the former.
Match Point boasts careful Allen-like character development in a rather un-Allenesque plot (in that the film is upfront about its nihilistic tendencies instead of masking it under tragic humor). The film announces its plot within the first ten minutes as Chris Wliton (played by a distant and appropriately off-putting Jonathan Rhys Meyers) alternates reading Crime and Punishment and a companion's guide to the book (a nice moment of self-reference). If you are familiar with the novel, the ultimate conclusion will not be surprising. But like a good book read for a second time, the pleasure is in the journey and the careful attention to character.
Wilton is an ex-tennis pro who possesses all the talent but none of the requisite desire to succeed. As a more rewarding "alternative," Wilton wishes to make honest money as tennis instructor at a posh English country club. He quickly falls into the good graces of a wealthy and good spirited family-close friends with the son, Tom, and even closer friends with the daughter, Chloe. The nice, even-tempered Chloe takes a shine to Wilton and offers him opportunities with her father's multi-million dollar company. The only snag is his affection for Tom's fiance, the seductive and tortured Nola Rice (played by the now ubiquitous Scarlet Johansson). Nola and Tom part ways, but that does not deter Wilton. They begin a secret affair that last months, that is until a series of unfortunate events germinate and the secret can no longer be kept (please, Pappa, don't preach). But then, again.
Although I knew the story's final resolution, I still found it quite thrilling (in the same way Apollo 13 was actually quite suspenseful). Equally enjoyable to the film was the audience; a number of elderly Allen loyalists who felt compelled to announce all their revelations. Normally, such theater behavior would trouble me, but thankfully all the revelations occurred during the closing credits. Plus, if you saw Take the Money and Run during its initial theatrical release, you get a pass.
Allen filmed MP in London, far away from the comfort of Manhattan. It is interesting to see Allen, who often treats New York as a character to add depth to his stories, replicate the same techniques in foreign surroundings. Like the aloof and distant protagonist, London functions as a perfectly charming host that protects its secrets to maintain a facade that has served it well for ages. Overall a solid Allen entry.