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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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MATCH POINT

SYNOPSIS:
Not quite top notch tennis pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) takes a club coaching job which introduces him to the wealthy Hewett family via son Tom (Matthew Goode) and his sweet sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). The latter falls for the handsome young man, who responds, but also begins to fall under the spell of Tom's sexy American girlfriend Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Chloe's parents Eleanor and Alec (Penelope Wilton, Brian Cox) are delighted with him and Alec gives him a job in his large corporation. But when Tom and Nola split, Chris pursues Nola vigorously but in secret, until she begins to demand he make a choice between her and Chloe. Chris, now seduced by a privileged life style and torn between the two women, is unable to make the choice Nola demands. He makes another.

Review by Louise Keller:
Skies may be continually grey in Woody Allen's first film set in England, but there's nothing dull about his characters. Match Point is a beguiling tale about the part that luck plays in all our lives. It's an engrossing drama about the complexities of relationships. Love, lust, betrayal and how luck changes the odds. When Chris (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) meets Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) over table tennis, she seductively asks 'Are you my next victim?' Of course, who becomes the real victim is revealed in due course.

There are perhaps fewer neuroses in Allen's characters than most of his films, but each of the main players has a sizeable cross to bear. Rhys-Meyers' Chris becomes easily bored by the cushy life-style handed to him on a platter when he marries Emily Mortimer's Chloe, a girl whose wealth brings him a job with potential, polo horses, expensive cars and a privileged lifestyle. He thinks Chloe is 'sweet', but lusts after Nola. Their forbidden relationship becomes irresistible. Rhys-Meyers excels at brooding roles such as this: from ambitious charmer to guilt-ridden adulterer. Johansson dazzles from her first moment on screen and we, like Chris, are besotted. It was Johansson whose name was on everyone's lips at the Cannes Film Festival where the film was first shown, and she exudes a natural sensuality - from her husky voice to the provocative pout of her generous lips.

Match Point starts out as a light, bright romantic comedy, but quickly develops into something considerably darker. For the first time since Crimes and Misdemeanours, Allen inflicts ominous shadows into the plotline, and his characters are driven to desperation. Unlike many of his previous films where jazz is used as an enticing accompaniment, opera is the accessory - entertaining as well as setting the mood, building up anticipation and effectively adding a climactic brush stroke in the darkest moment.

It's apt that Allen's central character starts out as a tennis coach. After all, tennis is a game where love means nothing. And those net cords can go either way.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Woody Allen has had a cinematic shower and come out refreshed with Match Point, abandoning his beloved New York for London's grey skies and unique social structure, picking up a new beat - both musically and metaphorically. The music is grand opera, not his usual classy jazz, a clue to the tragic undertone of the story.

Pivotal in thematic terms, the title refers to the importance of luck, as in a tennis match decided on the way a ball might fall after it hits the net cord. There is a sublime payoff to the opening shot of the said ball, but what happens in between those two shots is mesmerising stuff.

For most part, the two sets of romantic relationships are unremarkable for their infidelities. But Allen introduces the class structure of English society as well as two very different aliens in it: the wannabe actress Nola (Scarlett Johansson) from Boulder, Colorado, and the young man born on the wrong side of the Irish tracks, Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Both come off the worst for the encounter, but in very different ways. You could write a whole thesis on the underlying sociology of this screenplay, but it being Woody Allen it might be easier to forego the psychoanalysis and head straight for the surface. Here, the film is a fine human drama with a fantasy sequence that gives it festival cred and a resolution that is Greek-like in its mythic impact.

On the way, you'll enjoy moody English weather, great dialogue that avoids all signs of tired Allenisms and characters that are complete and credible - if not always admirable. It's also good fun, believe it or not.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MATCH POINT (M)
(US, 2005)

CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton

PRODUCER: Letty Aronson, Lucy Darwin, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

SCRIPT: Woody Allen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Remi Adefarasin

EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter

MUSIC: Not credited

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Clay

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 2, 2006







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