The International Writers Magazine:Woody Allen in London
Point by Woody Allen
Starring Scarlett Johansson. Emily Mortimer, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
have to hand it to Woody. For the past 30 years, he has been known
for his pure, unabashed love of New York. His best movies, appreciated
not only by the most serious critics but by the general public
also, were celluloid valentines to the Big Apple.
But two years ago
everything changed when Allen announced he would be making a London
based movie, filmed and set in the Capital, the first time Allen had
ever shot a movie outside of New York. The BBC put up the money, and
gave Woody Carte Blanche to shoot the movie how he liked. The only condition
they allowed such creative freedom was that the movie would feature
British actors, which it does, but for the fact that Scarlett Johansson
filled the role that Kate Winslet was due to take. Any rumours that
Match Point would be a whimsical romantic comedy of errors in the style
of Richard Curtis are proved untrue: its a serious and philosophical
work showing a newfound maturity in Allens career.
The story runs thus: Chris, a Tennis Instructor with ambitions far beyond
his station is coaching players in an upmarket West London Tennis club,
when he is given the chance of training the son of a wealthy gentleman.
A connection is soon established when Chris announces his love for opera,
and he is invited to attend a lavish production of La Traviata, wherein
he meets the rest of the family. Chris soon catches the attention of
their coquettish daughter (Emily Mortimer). At the same time, he meets
the seductive fiancée of Matthew Goode, an American actress (Scarlett
Johansson) considered to be an unsuitable match for Goode by the mother
in particular. Whilst Chris and Chloe continue their relationship, Chris
realises his amorous intentions to Nola, and manages to carry on deceiving
Chloe with Nola. Meanwhile, Cox becomes increasingly generous towards
Chris, first buying him a flat by the Thames, then giving him a high
profile position in his company. Chris and Chloe are married,
and things seem to be going well. After three months, Goode announces
to Chris that he is no longer seeing Nola. Time passes. During a visit
to the Tate Modern, Chris spots Nola, tracks her down and demands to
see her again. Soon he is playing a risky game, taking time off work
to meet Nola for sex. When she falls pregnant, he finds that he cannot
tell Chloe. When it becomes clear that she wont remain silent,
Chris has to take things into his own hands.... with devastating consequences.
The plot of Match Point as described above seems complicated,
but its actually very simple. It could be boiled down to
poor chancer with ambitions charms rich family but is almost brought
down by a destructive femme fatale. Some will call it Jamesian after
another American who wrote about arrivistes in the English Upper Classes.
There are also nods to Dostoyevskys Crime and Punishment.
But in terms of films, its Hitchcock that it most resembles, with the
central murder plot coming out of Strangers on a train.
The first Act seems to be concerned with the trappings of wealth, which
have never been on display so covetously. Chloes father can give
Chris everything he wants materially, seats in the royal box at the
opera, a chauffeur driven Jag, as well as one of the best positions
in the firm, but he cannot give him Nola, the person Chris wants above
all others. Against Nola, poor Chloe doesnt stand a chance. Indeed,
Nola represents the dangerously seductive females that all Allens
heroes seem to be attracted to, against their better judgement.
is Match Point a win or a lose? To me its neither.
The screenplay, originally intended for an American film with American
actors, contains lines that no Brit would ever say, such as Chloes
So youre a poor boy from Ireland come to London,
or Chris managing to utter Whats a beautiful young
American Ping-Pong player doing mingling with the British upper
class to a bemused Johansson.
As well as these
clunking solecisms, Allen also seems impervious to British class nuance.
I can just about believe that Chris would have been invited to the opera,
if only on behalf of the family as a thank-you. But its highly
doubtful that they would be so unguarded as to welcome a complete stranger
into their lives, much less to encourage him to marry their daughter.
Yet this is what drives the film along, and the film manages to get
past these obstacles, just as a horse is coaxed to fitness by being
made to jump higher hurdles.
The film really takes off once Chris starts seeing Nola behind Chloes
back. Yet inspite of his moral deficiencies, we are behind Chris all
the way, perhaps because Chloe and her family are so appallingly vapid.
Against the soundtrack of Una Furtiva lagrima
Chris schemes to murder Nola to cover up for their affair. Whether he
gets away with it or not, I cant say, but the film heads towards
a stunning conclusion that suggests that life is dependent on luck as
much as anything else.
Cheers, Woody, its good to have you back.
© Rob Cottingham
See also A
Woody Allen Primer by Rob Cottingham
Melinda and Melida
Rob Cottinham review
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