Match Point (12A)

Written and Directed by Woody Allen
On general release from 6th January 2006

Reviewed by Mandy McFarland

Let’s not get caught up in the over-hype that this is Allen’s best film in years, because it isn’t. This is Allen’s worst film ever, and it has about as much depth and soul as a tennis ball rattling round in a tin bucket (believe me, I’ve sat through it). We are asked to do two things: 1) believe that the course of life’s events happen through ‘luck’ - which Allen ham-fistedly attempts to symbolise at the beginning of the film by showing a tennis ball teetering on top of a net in clichéd slo-mo - rather than through our own actions, talents & desires and 2) to suspend belief to such an extent that watching this film becomes almost insulting and pointless.

Let’s start at the beginning. There’s this poor Irish guy who apparently was a star tennis player but was “never going to be an Agassi or a Henman” so decides to adapt the most affected English accent ever and turn his hand to coaching the landed gentry at a top London tennis club. He also takes to reading Dostoyevsky and develops a love of opera so that he can pull a clever discussion out of the hat to impress the impressionable rich folk. As luck would have it he lands the painfully gullible Tom (Matthew Goode) as his first pupil. Tom’s the son of Alec Hewett (Brian Cox), a hugely wealthy, extremely well connected City businessman with a mansion in the country, who gets his kicks from lavishing luxuries and money on his loved ones. Although Chris has about as much charisma as an empty pyjama case and is about as cagey and shady as it gets, Tom befriends him and - on discovering his love of opera - invites him to the family box at Covent Garden. Tom’s dippy and unbelievably naive sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) can’t take her eyes off him, and snobby mama Eleanor (Penelope Wilton) and papa simply adore him - especially after he sends them (wait for it) a bunch of flowers - to say ‘ta for the free ticket’ the next day. Hey presto, he’s in with the in crowd, where the grass is green and the money’s greener. Who would have thought it was that simple to infiltrate the inner sanctums of the English elite (over to you Woody?). Apparently, they don’t need to know anything about you; you can be penniless, as dull as dishwater, pretend to be English, give absolutely nothing in return for all the goodies they give you, and be as affected as you like but they’ll just love you darlink, and they’ll even give you the hand of their daughter in marriage!

Anyway, firmly ensconced in the bosom of the Hewett family and with the freedom to roam their mansion at will, he stumbles across the other outsider in this startlingly vacuous set-up in the form of smouldering American actress, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) who - much to the total disgust of mama - is engaged to Tom. Mama finds her vulgar, common, and just not good enough for her boy. Nola is pouting, sultry, and not afraid to say what she thinks - though everything she says is a cliché - and Chris is smitten with this fluffy kitten at first sight. So, the four chums proceed to hang round together and although Chris makes no bones about the fact he fancies the pants of Nola he’s ‘lucky enough’ that Tom and Chloe are so dim and self-obsessed they don’t notice his letchy stares and his manipulative behaviour to satisfy his lust-driven desire to be near her. Meanwhile, for some mind-bogglingly inexplicable reason, Chloe is falling more and more in love with this guy who pays her little to no attention, and lo and behold they get married. Papa provides them with everything their empty little hearts desire: a fab flat overlooking the Thames (the view from which is the only good thing about the film), a high-flying job for Chris (although you never actually know what he does) complete with a chauffer driven car, and an art gallery for the wife. Chloe’s first words to him as they stand in their marital home are “I want you to get me pregnant”. That, my friends, sums them up the rest of their lives together!

We are then subjected to endless reams of shallow, mind-numbing dialogue and dull, irritating little happenings between this family and their equally pompous friends, who seem to know nothing about each other except that they’re rich, rich, rich and they’re lovin’ it, and they patronise each other to the point where you want to take a shot gun and shoot them!!

As luck would have it, Chris learns that Tom and Nola have split up, so he finds her (in the Tate Modern no less) and they embark on an affair which goes predictably horribly wrong when Nola discovers she’s with child and turns into the ranting, demanding and hysterical woman Allen's set her up to be. Chris’ cunning little plan to put an end to her demanding ways and to protect his life of material riches sumptuously devoid of a shred of human emotion is so ridiculous and implausible that I actually laughed out loud.

Some viewers may wish to see the final scenes of this film as testament to the harshest punishment God can inflict on sinners is to leave them to fester in the dungeon of their own sins as they live the rest of their life in a self-inflicted living hell-on-earth, falsely believing that they got away scot free with their crime – don’t mess with God mate, he’ll have the last laugh, not you!

Not me; I saw the final scenes of this film as a cue to get my coat on and get out of the most trite, massively overrated, clichéd film I’ve sat through in a very long, oh who am I kiddin... EVER! I loathed every single one of the characters; I would cross the street to avoid them and I couldn’t care less what happened to a single one of them. Why should I care about people who aren’t capable of caring about each other? Good luck to them, but please don’t subject us, Mr Allen, to any more of this trite, pompous, shallow, nonsense.

There’s no doubt Woody Allen has made some good films in his time that examine human morals & values and push the question of crime, retribution and God (bring on Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanours) but I’m sorry, Match Point is not one of them.

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