Match Point

Allen’s Return is Rotten to the Core

Sometimes it’s hard to be a movie reviewer. Sure, you get to watch movies and be paid for it, but what do you do when you admire a film for it’s craft, but despise it’s message? Do you give credit to a filmmaker who makes you feel awful with no apparent payoff? Is that feeling the “payoff” in itself, since that’s what the director wanted you to feel in the first place? Woody Allen’s Match Point falls deep into this category--a movie I can easily respect, but find hard to like.

Former tennis pro Chris Wilton (Johnathan Rhys Meyers) has just been hired as an instructor in upper-class London tennis club. There he meets Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), and his sweet sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). The two soon begin dating and, as Chris gets a taste of their wealthy lifestyle, he realizes it’s something he can’t live without. Chris also meets Tom’s sexy fiancé Nola (Scarlett Johansson), and their chemistry smolders. Chris becomes obsessed with Nola, but to what lengths will he go to protect his newfound status that he loves more than life itself?

What we have here is an interesting drama polluted with a despicable protagonist. Chris is one of the most unsympathetic, selfish, “wolf in sheep’s clothing” characters I’ve seen in quite awhile. He cares about no one but himself, and will tread on anyone (in the most subversive fashion) to get what he wants. There appears to be no level he won’t stoop to, and to the horror of the viewer--he does.

The beginning of the film features an excellent metaphor for luck, as a tennis ball hits the top of a net and shoots upward, with the potential to fall either way. This theme of luck being the dictator of our fate is repeated throughout the film, and the above visual is cleverly recycled using a critical element to the story that determines the fate of our “hero” - though not in the way we expect.

My main problem with this material is that if you are going to give me a movie with no moral center, then you had better give me a protagonist with one (or vice versa). Otherwise, you simply have an exercise in futility that I’d rather not be a part of. Call me a prude if you wish, but if you are going to drag me through the muck, then please let me come away with something other than the need for a shower.