“Match Point” Review

matchpointMatch Point [2005] – ★★1/2

In this film, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), an ex-tennis pro, comes from humble background, but slowly makes his way to the society’s upper class by dating and then marrying a sister of one of his students at a posh tennis club in London. However, this is all far from being a plain-sailing feat for Chris, because along the way he gets entangled with a seeming femme fatale and a starting actress Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), who may as well bring his undoing. It is hard to guess this is a Woody Allen film. It not only plays out like a dull TV soap-opera for most of its time, it is also filled with pretensions and clichés regarding the lives of London’s upper class; has a parade of totally unlikable characters; and is devoid of humour. 

The film starts with philosophical musings on luck, and how, sometimes, it is essential to winning a point, and, perhaps, ultimately, a tennis match. Our main character Chris lands a job of a tennis instructor at a tennis club in London, and befriends one of his students, Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), who then introduces him to his family and friends, the crème-de-la-crème of London’s upper-class society. Almost immediately, Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) notices Chris, and the two are soon dating. However, Tom also has a girlfriend, an American aspiring actress, Nola. Although the director focuses on the same societal interplay and connections between different sets of couples as in Blue Jasmine (2013), the first hour and twenty minutes of Match Point could as well be missed. In this time period, the story goes on and on about the unlikely quartet: Chris’s tense relationship with both Chloe and Nola, and his friendship with Tom. There are useless dialogues scenes here concerning finance, Chris’s new high-paid job, and the inability of Chloe to conceive a child. All this plays out like a tedious, meaningless melodrama.

After one hour and twenty minutes, the story finally gets interesting, largely because Allen decides to “spice things up” and begins to explore moral dilemmas with a hint of suspense. However, at this point, the story soon slides into the sphere of pure fantasy, and the film’s final fifteen minutes feel like it is a completely different movie. The film thinks it is clever at the end, because it has the so-called “thought-provoking” ending, but the so-called “intelligence” of the film at the end is nothing but the audience’s manipulation and a disappointing mess. Near the film’s end, it becomes clear that the story is not based on the idea of “luck”, but on the idea of “total improbability”. The chances that events could have happened the way they were described in the film are zero (too many different variables and “ifs” are involved), ruling out any references to “luck”, and making the story totally unconvincing, especially from the legal point of view. This also means that the film’s comments on “luck”, Dostoevsky and the philosophy behind life opportunities are never convincing, and, apart from annoyance, the audience gets little from Allen’s lecture on “luck” in the film.

match point

It does not also help that none of the characters are likeable. Rhys-Meyers, playing Chris, comes off as arrogant, selfish and deceitful, and the casting of Rhys-Meyers probably contributes to this film being so weak. Allen could not even make of him the anti-hero, that “evil” protagonist that the audience love to watch in Patricia Highsmith adaptations. In Match Point, Chris is never sympathetic or interesting, let alone appealing. Moreover, Rhys-Meyers’s acting is quite terrible most of the time as he delivers his lines in a deadpan manner. His co-star Matthew Goode, in the role of Tom, is not much better, coming off nearly as arrogant, nasty and double-faced as Chris, but at least such stereotypical behaviour of his character is excusable here, because he did not have that “humble” upbringing in the film.

As for Scarlett Johansson (Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)), she surprisingly brings that something which makes Match Point watchable, giving a good performance as an aspiring actress whose career aspirations slowly sink, and who has to rely on her immediate entourage for assistance and moral support. “What is a beautiful young American…doing mingling among the British upper class?”, asks Chris of Nola in the film, and the audience may as well ask what such a top-rated actress as Johansson, who performs so well here, is doing in a lousy film like this? Johansson’s cast looks as random as the final thirty or so minutes of the film. However, at least the character of Nola Rice is intriguing. 

Match Point is tedious and melodramatic, with the whole story turned on a set of completely unlikely and ludicrous eventualities, which Woody Allen only too eager to term “luck”.

Though never giving any sign that he understands the British class system, Woody Allen still manages to use London locations fully and to his advantage: the audience gets to see such London sights as Big Ben, the London Eye, the Queen’s Club, Royal Opera House and the Gherkin building, among others. Unlike his other films, especially those shot in New York, Allen dispenses with humour completely in Match Point, too. The director is too content to simply fill his screen with endless dialogues (sure, spoken with the perfect British accent), and to draw the audience’s attention to the fact that his characters frequent the Saatchi gallery, the Tate Modern exhibitions, and go to opera. The awe that Allen wants to instil in his audience towards London’s high society backfires, displeases: the whole story becomes filled with terrible clichés and pretensions, and it looks like Match Point was really made by the tourist – Woody Allen – for the tourists (the American audience). Also, if there are some allusions in the film to any matter other than sex or money, these things are accidental “points of brilliance”, rather than intentionally produced and well-thought-out moments.

Match Point is tedious and melodramatic, with the whole story turned on a set of completely unlikely and ludicrous eventualities, which Woody Allen only too eager to term “luck”. The whole story, characters and their relationships make almost zero sense in the film, and the film works neither as a drama-thriller, nor as a romance-comedy. Although the film has some interesting ideas script-wise and Scarlett Johansson shines, there is no escaping the fact that, in the end, it is just a humourless, preposterous and pretentious film, with the main character probably taking the crown of being one of the most annoying, unlikable and unsympathetic ever. 


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Love this movie!


  2. Jay says:

    I think this is in my DVD collection somewhere. I watched it once and never wanted to go back, it just really didn’t work for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      I am glad to know I am not the only one who did not like it!


  3. I did watch the actual Wimby final this past Sunday – and completely agree with your review. Considering how much I like Matthew Goode and Rhys-Meyers, they were both quite off here and sorry but Johansson is also quite terrible and wooden as she usually is. Also agree tho that Vicky Christina Barcelona is good one!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Roger Federer was great (of course, I am a fan). I am so glad that he managed to bag yet another cup. I thought, like so many others, it would never happen again.
      I also agree that it is a shame about Goode and Rhys-Meyers here, but then how could then a number of good actors here perform so bad? The answer could be that the direction (sorry, Woody Allen) is not the best ever, too.


  4. Great review and all your criticisms are very valid with Match Point. However, for all its faults and the very unlikeable lead character I did enjoy the themes and philosophies at work in relation to luck and fate.

    It’s interesting as none of it really hangs together. I mean other than lending a decent title the tennis-player character has no depth. Although, I did kind of like the idea of the working class guy working his way up through society with just charm and looks.

    Scarlett Johansson, as you say, really holds the film together in light of some very on-the-nose dialogue and wonky pacing. This is one of those films which, for all its faults, I really enjoyed for some reason; as a Netflix straight-to-rental-thriller though and not as some great piece of cinema.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I think I would have found it entertaining too if I were not so annoyed by many things about it. And, I think if I watched it around 2005, I would have liked it a bit more. I was introduced to this film by pure coincidence (chance again? lol) and rather late, and, of course, I guess I already had tons of more elaborate and “intelligent” post-2005 films to mentally compare it too.
      As for Chris Wilton character, whatever charm he had it did not work on me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember enjoying this film years ago, but you may have a point about the implausibility factor.

    Liked by 1 person

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