Vamshidhar Kommineni

September 4, 2006

Movie Review: Matchpoint

Filed under: Movies — Vamshi @ 12:22 pm

Rating: 3.5 stars
Link to Ebert’s review
Link to Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregation

Matchpoint is Woody Allen’s best movie to date this decade. He’s one of my favorite directors (definitely the one with the largest set of movies that I love). He made some great movies in the 90s (Sweet and Lowdown, Deconstructing Harry, Mighty Aphrodite, Bullets over Broadway) and of course the classic films from the 70s (Manhattan, Annie Hall). Recently, his movies have been panned by the critics (though I think Melinda and Melinda was pretty decent).

Matchpoint is a bit of a departure from the classic Woody Allen film. It’s set in London, away from the familiar set (and character) of New York. This changes the tone of the film quite a bit. Also, all of the movie’s music is opera music rather than the Allen staple of jazz.

The movie revolves around one man, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and his relationship with two women. A social climber who has worked hard to drag himself out of poverty, he hits the jackpot when a wealthy man’s daughter falls in love and marries him, leading to his rapid rise up the corporate ladder of his father in law’s company. But he can’t resist the siren call of Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), the ex-fiancee of his brother in law. The movie essentially builds this set of characters to the eventual, inevitable dilemma of Chris having to chose between his loving wife and a comfortable life and the tempestuous mistress. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it so say that it is well worth the movie rental.

Along the way Allen looks at the conflicting emotions faced by the three central characters in the movie. I think he does a great job illustrating the difference between the self made man and doting father (the father in law), the entitled son (the brother in law), the loving and simple, yet spoiled child (the wife), and the social climbers (both Chris and Nola, albeit in different ways). The movie doesn’t quite have the staple Allen character; the neurotic, low self esteem and goofy lead often played by the man himself. In some sense it actually plays more like a sophisticated and mature Neil LaBute film, than a Woody Allen film.

The female cast in this movie is brilliant. Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as the American seductress and failed actress illustrating the change in her mood and self esteem as she goes from fiance to a rich scion to the insecure, clingy mistress of a man much like herself. Emily Mortimer plays Chloe, the wife of Chris and does an admirable job of playing the loving, trusting, innocent wife who isn’t above letting Daddy buy her what she wants, including the "love of her life". Even Penelope Wilton in her short appearance as Chloe’s mother is well cast. The male actors on the other hand are a mixed bag. Brian Cox is a good actor and works well in the mode of Chloe’s father who wants to see his daughter have a happy life. Matthew Goode as Chloe’s brother only barely passes muster in his forgettable role. I would have given this movie 4 stars if not for Jonathan Rhys Meyers who I think is a misfit for this role. I was never really convinced by his acting nor do we feel much empathy for the character (not that he deserves much empathy).

Criticism aside, this is a fun movie to watch and well worth the time.

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