A former professional tennis player moves to the UK and quickly finds a job as a tennis coach. He befriends one of his well-off students, and marries into the family, but plays a dangerous game by falling for his friend's fiancée.
Since premiering at last year's Venice Film Festival, Woody Allen's latest film Match Point has gainied a lot of attention, being hailed by many as a 'return to form' for the septuagenarian filmmaker. It is also the first film that Allen, 'a director so identified with his native New York City,' has made abroad. Match Point is set and filmed entirely in London with a predominantly UK cast. It includes a mixture of older and younger actors, all equally adept at handling Allen's dialogue and dramatic script; Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Velvet Goldmine, Bend It Like Beckham), Emily Mortimer (Lovely & Amazing), Brian Cox (The Bourne Identity), Penelope Wilton (Shaun Of The Dead) and Matthew Goode (Imagine Me and You). The sole American to appear is young star Scarlett Johanssen (Lost In Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring).
It should appeal to audiences young and old, and 'Woody' fans old and new. Myers plays Chris Wilton, a young ex-pro tennis player who moves to London and takes a job as a tennis coach at a posh private club hoping to make it big. As luck would have it he strikes gold quickly, befriending one of his pupils Tom, (Goode), an incredibly wealthy businessman from old money. Tom's family welcome Chris with open arms, and he dutifully marries Tom's sister Chloe (Mortimer). But always with his eyes on the prize Chris embarks on an affair with Tom's fiancée Nola (Johansson), a young American actress struggling to find her way in her new London life, as is Chris. Their affair is short-lived but when by chance they meet again it is rekindled with a passion. The affair is doomed to fail. Things eventually do go pear-shaped and the consequences prove fatal.
Match Point begins with a quote about the nature of luck, where Wilton, the professional tennis player, points out his philosophy for life; "he'd 'rather be lucky than good." Ergo the film is a dark exploration of luck and morality, with ambition and infidelity thrown in for good measure. These are all themes Allen has visited before in his films but perhaps never so single-mindedly. The main characters, namely Chris and Nola, seemingly both as attractive and flawed as each other, are sorely tested as they grapple with morals, ethics and passions.
Like Allen's sublime 1990 film Crimes and Misdemeanours, probably his last great film, Match Point is intensely compelling and at times terrifying, unfolding in 'real time', making it all the more intense experience. (Perhaps Match Point is the closest thing Woody Allen has made to a Hitchcock film?!) Unlike Crimes though, there is only incidental humour to alleviate the film's growing tension and inevitable grim outcome.
Match Point is a well-observed, detailed portrait of the 'haves' and what one 'have not' might do to have it all' I've never thought Allen's 'insights' into sexual politics and relationships in his films very profound or progressive, compassionate even, (in fact they can often downright off-putting and arcane). But I have found them entertaining, he certainly knows how to make films about such things. On that point Match Point is a return to form for the director, the furthest thing away from the rehashed comedy he's been serving up for years. And it's a relief to be able to say that.
Allen hails Match Point as his best film. I'm not so sure I agree as it is not quite up there with Crimes and Misdemeanours, Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Hannah & Her Sisters (1986) or Annie Hall (1977). But it is certainly the best film he's made in at least ten years, one that will keep people talking for days afterwards.