One-time tennis pro Chris (Rhys-Meyers) is working as a coach when he meets wealthy posh bird Chloe (Mortimer). After they marry he embarks on an affair with his brother-in-law’s fiancée, Nola (Johansson), forming a love triangle that has violent consequences.
In a recent interview, Woody Allen, who turns 70 this year, remarked that, “All that crap they tell you about getting joy and having a kind of wisdom in your golden years — it’s all tripe.” But if the advancing years have given Allen nothing in the way of wisdom, they have equipped him with a newly stoked fury at the randomness of life. Match Point is a pleasingly sour shaggy-dog tale about how almost no-one ever gets what they deserve, that plays like an episode of Tales Of The Unexpected directed by, well, Woody Allen.
The most obvious departure for Allen is the relocation from his beloved Manhattan to London, or at least, the more photogenic bits of London. (For the most part he manages to avoid the tendency to travelogue that most directors face when filming off familiar turf, so thankfully there are few red double-deckers or shots of Piccadilly Circus with the caption “London”, though characters do have an unnerving tendency to ostentatiously announce the chic locations for their rendezvous — “Let’s meet at the Tate Modern!”) But there are other distinctly un-Woodyish elements: a sex scene that’s certainly one of the most graphic
he’s ever filmed, together with some genuinely shocking violence. But its key distinction is the air of fatalistic irony that pervades this tart tale of hubris denied. (A biographical musing: would Woody have made this treatise on the essential unfairness of the universe before he was denied access to his children by a New York court?)
Both Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers are well cast as the pillow-lipped love-birds, the former playing tennis coach and social climber Chris with just a tinge of Ripley-style ambivalence, and there’s solid support from, among others, Brian Cox as the blissfully unaware paterfamilias, the actor here exercising his legal right to be in everything.
For fans of ‘the earlier funny ones’, it’s worth pointing out that Match Point is certainly not a comedy in the conventional sense, but it is a recitation of the great cosmic joke: justice and fairness have nothing to do with where you end up — it’s all about the breaks. Our good fortune is that with Melinda And Melinda and now Match Point, Allen seems, after nearly half-a-dozen disappointments, finally to be back on track.
Woody’s best for ages. Even for non-Allen fans this has all the appeal of a good story well told and capped with a deliciously vicious little twist.