Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Match Point (2005)

Woody Allen's latest movies have not encouraged me to rush out to each new one. But the combination of having revisited some older classics and the decidedly atypical trailer for Match Point were enough to get me to the theater; whatever he's subjected me to lately, Allen deserves my patronage when he tries something new.

Not that there's anything really new about this movie. It tells the tried-and-true tale of adultery, class difference and desperate action. And why not? It's a good story. Even when he's funny, Allen is always dark, so this grim but never heavy film isn't really a deviation for him. Unlike Allen, however, he is nowhere to be found in the characters; there is no Woody-clone to gum up the works with a futile attempt to mimic his trademark nervous patter.

Instead we have an attractive young cast, headed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johannson, both of whom seem to be popping up everywhere. The rest of the cast is lovely as well, though my egalitarian American soul was a little miffed that my sympathies lay with the moneyed Hewetts rather than the Irish and American upstarts. I thought Meyers acquitted himself well, even as he made himself creepy and pouty (in a way that makes me think he's been rifling through Jude Law's playbook), though Johannson struck me as seeking to remember her lines before uttering each one. She struck me false, and I couldn't buy into her reading of the character. Interestingly enough, fellow viewers had the exact same complaint--but about Meyers. This discrepancy in spectator opinion is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of the film's effectiveness.

This film may not garner the kind of following Allen's dark comedies encouraged in earlier days. But it's a welcome addition to his oeuvre, decadent and fun and dismal, and the central theme of luck vs. skill is followed through to the end, though perhaps without teaching us much of anything. This is entertainment in the loveliest sense--ambiguous, enjoyable, and without pandering to Hollywood's obsession with closure.

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