If you were able to disregard the credits for Match Point, Woody Allen would likely not be one of your guesses for the director of this film. Missing are the incessant chatter of people working through their angst and marital infidelities, typical of his work.
Match Point Movie Review
Here, we have the infidelity, but not the humor. Chris Wilton (Johnathan Rhys-Meyers) is a tennis pro who gives up the game–according to the opening scene– when the ball just won’t bounce his way. Chris doesn’t get the breaks to reach the top-seeds.
So he lands a job at a posh London private club. His ingratiating and refined personality win him the friendship of Tom Hewitt (Matthew Goode), of a wealthy aristocratic British family. What he could not attain on the pro tennis circuit, he does with remarkable ease in the world of upper class London Society. He marries Tom’s sister (Emily Mortimer) who remains his sweet devoted wife throughout the film.
But Chris risks it all with a torrid affair with Nola, (Scarlett Johansson), Tom’s girlfriend. And we’re off and running to see how long Chris can pull this off and not ruin his plum position in the Hewitt family.
Not a new story. For most of Match Point we must endure the golden boy’s escapades as he sneaks around and covers up, which he does with dazzling charm. The Hewetts remain blissfully ignorant of his dalliance though he remains perilously close to discovery a number of times. But it’s like watching a brilliant artist go through an increasing addiction, foolishly risking all his fame.
For the entire film, we’re never sold on the sincerity of Chris–even in his obsession with Nola. He’s certainly not your typical tennis jock. One scene has him accidentally running into a former player which feels more like two alumni from Oxford promising to meet later for martinis.
Chris has an effeminate presence which even hinted that the original attraction to the wealthy Tom at the club, may have been more than friendship. But it was not. The later scenes with Nola left no doubt of that. Yet even in his attraction to Nola, there just seemed something false to the relationship. From the time Chris embarked on his rise to stardom, he seems to have checked his soul at the door.
It could be along gender lines, but men may not want to see him caught, while women do. But that’s conjecture. For a while, I wanted to see him zip it up and get back to sweet wife and life of luxury. Later, I didn’t care.
Allen’s existential view of random circumstances going either way, without benefit of any moral consequences, may work as a philosophy, but it does not work with the viewer. The tension of watching the canny Chris slip one incriminating circumstance after another and fool everyone around him assumes that it’s a tossup whether we are likely to face consequences from our actions.
The irony, maybe missed by Allen, is that the struggles by honorable people–just about every other character in the film–provides the conflicting argument that chance is not the only force that determines our fate. But even if you subscribe to that theory, Chris’ luck can swing either way. The ball may drop over the net this time. But what about next time?