Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Match Point--A Short Review


So I did go see Match Point. I didn't care much for Woody Allen's films when I was growing up. But he's something of an acquired taste, and I've since learned to love his ability to tell a story without all the movie magic bullshit. He sets up a (usually) very human dilemma and lets it work itself out between people who interact like people will do. More or less. Sometimes it seems as though the new movie is just a variation on something already in his oeuvre, but again, one comes to appreciate the delicate shadings of these variations. We have to be comfortable with quiet and slow, and with detail (relatively-speaking, of course--it's not as though his movies are simple or simplistic; they're just not about Hollywood action).

Nearly everything Allen has ever done has been set in New York, which shows both his love of The City and his neurosis in being a filmmaker who prefers to sleep in his own bed at all times. Go figure. Match Point is therefore surprising for being set in London. He has his usual wonderful cast of unknowns to semi-knowns to the occasional big star. This cast features Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter) and Scarlett Johannson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Emily Mortimer for big names, and they are supported by a seamless cast of, to me, unknowns in the smaller roles.

The plot will be covered elsewhere by others with better memories. For my purposes, I'll say that this is the kind of plot that makes me squirm: a dilemma is set up right from the beginning, and one is left to fret while waiting for it to play out. We don't know for sure there will be a train wreck, but things develop--as they will--such that there's no clean and easy way out. After that it's all about our morbid fascination, and the director's skill in unfolding things deftly. Allen has written a Hitchcockian story, one where, like quicksand, each step seems not to get the characters away from trouble but more firmly and inextricably mired in it.

Well, it's a ripping good story, unfolding with little kinks to the very end. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is fabulous as a bloke both likeable and not quite trustworthy. And Scarlett Johannson seems very well cast as an American girl getting by on chutzpah and sex appeal, two characteristics I'd wager she actually possesses in spades. Their characters' lives' convergence at a delicate moment seems not forced or contrived. Some things were genuinely surprising to me, and the movie ended with me feeling satisfyingly unsatisfied. In this it reminded me of my reaction to The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Anybody else see it?

And I still need help with tomorrow's movie!

7 comments:

Kate said...

The only Woody Allen movie that I liked was What's Up, Tiger Lily.

wunelle said...

That's one I haven't seen. I actually can't call myself either a big fan of his nor well-versed in his work. He's made some absurd number of films--like, 40 or so--and I've really seen about 10 of them. And not all of them did I care for. But a few, like Manhattan and Annie Hall, are simply brilliant.

Esbee said...

I wanted to see this but I couldn't ever find it playing anywhere.

wunelle said...

Wow, never even heard of it! The review sounds a bit tantalizing, tho. We never get this kind of stuff in Appleton, even on video. But I'm usually in a big enough city here or there to catch the smaller-release stuff.

I'll have to see if it's in a video store around here.

Dzesika said...

I've seen both 'Mrs Henderson Presents' and 'Brokeback Mountain' and enjoyed both thoroughly, even though the latter - in typical Annie Proulx fashion - make me want to go outside afterwards and just throw myself in front of a train.

It was still good, though.

Nancy said...

I'd recommend Capote for sure. Philip Seymour Hoffman's acting is absolutely spot-on, and the way he (Capote, that is) weaseled himself into people's private lives is fun to watch. It's also got a theme about the artist and his work of art -- the birthing pains, in this case. Remember, In Cold Blood was the last book he ever wrote. Watching this, you can understand why.

wunelle said...

Circumstances are preventing me from my Wednesday movie. But I'll have time tomorrow.

Today's Talk of the Nation focused on the Oscar races, and again there was talk of the miracle of Brokeback Mountain. I just may have to see it. They also raved about The White Countess, which currently sits at the top of my list.

And Capote does intrigue me. If they don't fly me off somewhere (instead of giving me simulator support for the rest of the week), I'll maybe have a chance to see 'em all.