Sorry New York, but one of your best homegrown artists has decided to cross the pond. Woody Allen is remembered for vowing never to leave New York ever again to make a movie after he returned from Europe where he filmed the hilarious Love and Death in 1975. After a 30-year stint in the Big Apple, Allen decided to retract his pledge and film a movie in London; and has crafted a thoughtful thriller that reminds viewers why he is often considered a genius.
Match Point, which was mostly (sadly) neglected by this year’s Oscar nominations, is a suspenseful philosophical thesis on the sometimes underestimated role of luck in peoples’ lives. It revolves around a former tennis pro, Chris, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who falls in favor with an extremely well to do family. He ends up marrying the daughter and working for the father, but soon finds himself entangled with the brother’s American girlfriend, played by Scarlett Johansson. Soon Chris finds himself with a moral dilemma on his hands, and in the end can only hope that his luck will keep him afloat.
Characters in Allen’s movies are often living in a world without a moral center. The problems they get into are problems not because they offend a higher good, but because they make the characters’ lives more painful and complicated. The events of this film indeed complicate Chris’s life, but unlike Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, Chris is not plagued with guilt so much as the overhanging dread that he might be caught; that dread, coupled with several plot twists and turns, is what makes the film so suspenseful. The viewer is drawn into a conundrum without realizing it: Chris is doing terribly despicable things, but for some reason, we want him to succeed.
Woody Allen is a filmmaker who rewards intelligent viewers. Those who have read Crime and Punishment will see obvious parallels, and Allen’s themes always provide interesting springboards for philosophical discussions. Some of his films can alienate broader audiences by including too much high-brow humor. This film contains enough suspense and emotion to keep any viewer interested right down to the tense finale.