Match Point   –   rated   –   SIMMERING

Match Point is an unusual film from Woody Allen.  For one thing, it was made in London: the first Woody Allen production to be made entirely outside New York.  Next, all the cast but one (Scarlett Johansson) are not Americans.  But apart from that, I think this film is very Woody Allen – the Woody of 2006 – cynical, jaded, bleak (but still funny) and (gasp!) married to Mia Farrow's adopted daughter.

The tone of the film is set in the opening sequence, when our anti-hero, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) announces: "The man who said 'I'd rather be lucky than good' saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great  a part of life is dependent on luck... It's scary to think so much is out of one's control..." Allen places this anti-hero, an Irish born tennis professional on the make, into upper-class London society.  Immediately we think of Patricia Highsmith's character Tom Ripley, and we know what to expect... or do we?

There are other cultural references too:  to "An American Tragedy" (filmed as "A Place in the Sun", George Stevens, 1951), a character reads "Crime and Punishment", Scarlett Johansson's character recalls the Henry James heroines, and the whole cynical exercise brings to mind some of Billy Wilder's more bitter films (like "The Apartment", 1960).

I'm actually having a hard time reviewing this film.  It didn't grab me in the way that some of Woody's films have.  I think it is because Woody is out of his milieu, and there's something a bit false about the way the characters act and speak.  Some of the British critics have pointed out a number of stumbles and mistakes.  For example, some characters talk about "'The' Tate Modern," when the definite article is not used for that institution.  The character Tom played (very well, I think) by Matthew Goode, says "I've got to meet my wife at  (the?) Tate Modern.  There's a new painter she wants to show me."  This is quite some new painter if their first exposure is a show at Tate Modern!  There are other gripes – the pronunciation of "Eleanor" with the accent on the last syllable, instead of the first; people who like high opera don't generally like Andrew Lloyd Webber unless they are being ironic, etc.  Things like that about the script didn't ring true, and this bothered me throughout.

But the broad brush strokes are a different matter.   As a social commentary it is as sharp and sardonic as Woody has ever been, Cynical and pessimistic – even nihilistic.  It's the musings of a very clever man who seems to have lost faith in human integrity.  The ending is very clever and very satisfying.  I want to see the film again.  That's a good enough recommendation for any film.