Friday, March 24, 2006

Match Point , directed by Woody Allen

I happened to get a look at Woody Allen's recent and much praised film Match Point and thought it quite a bit a less than what it was supposed to be. It's at tale of conniving treachery and bad faith, along the lines of Allen's masterfully layered Crimes and Misdemeanors, although this new one is sparser, less resonant. Without giving out too much information, it deals with the doings of an emerging British tennis super star(Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who quits the game in order to become a tennis pro at a London health spa; with his good looks and surface charm, he soons finds his way into the good graces of a rich industrialist's family and becomes engaged to his daughter while nearly simultaneously having an affair with a brash American actress(Scralett Johannson). A note here, shorter than it ought to be, is that the actors and their performances are generally superb, but this is more a tribute to their professionalism than any great dialogue or gestural moments provdided by Allen's script. Always a determinist more interested in revealing the baser instincts that continually triumpth over protests of virtues, Allen's world view sometimes hits dead spots, and depth of character here isn't
this film's strongest asset. They are clusters of tics and twitches and flat affect,
and when emotions do come to a pitch, it sounds more like whining, Woody Allen kvetching with upperclass London accents.

The convolutions our tennis playing protagonist goes through in order to preserve both his houses gets mildly comic, and leads to an unavoidable tragic complication by the film's end, and it plays well once the final nuances are served, but I never got beyond the filling that I was waiting through a shaggy dog story waiting for the punchline to arrive, with or without laughs.

Here, you mutter "oh wow", admire director and writer Allen for the efficiency of his work and marvel at the care with which he shot London, after which the film leaves you with virtually no memorable scenes. It is dry as kindling, and very much a formal excercise. It has the efficiency of a well run bus line, but you wonder if this kind of movie Woody Allen is destined to make from this day forward.

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