Film Reviews

Match Point Woody Allen

Rating - 8/10

Another year, another Woody Allen movie. 2006 sees the prolific writer/director celebrate the fortieth anniversary of his directorial debut (What's Up Tiger Lilly?) and it appears the man who brought NYC geek-chic to the masses isn't done wallowing in life's misfortunes just yet.

Shifting the action from the his beloved Manhattan to England's capital, Match Point again sees Allen casting his bespectacled gaze over - you guessed it - failed human relationships, this time against a backdrop of Kensington townhouses, tennis whites and trips to Tate Modern - y'know, the real London.

The plot revolves around Chris Wilton (Rhys-Meyers), who, having quit the rigours of pro-tennis to coach England's upper crust, swiftly finds himself indulging in a bit of serve and volley with new best-mate Tom's sister, Chloe. Enter said best-mate's fiancée Nola (Johansson), a down-on-her-luck American actress with whom Chris soon begins an affair.

At first glance, the themes of upper-class infidelity, bad luck and struggling thespians appear ripe for Allen's inimitable brand of light-hearted musings on life's injustices.

But don't be fooled. Whereas much of the director's output is typified by the sardonic NooYawk humour that the director made his own, Match Point is a bitter, brilliant meditation on greed, lust and chance, more akin to Gosford Park than Central Park.

The characters are untypical too; Nola is a self-pitying boozer with a taste for marriage breaking, whilst the humourless Chris's dilemma of self-preservation and wealth vs lunchtime quickies with a would-be actress is anything but endearing.

The script may sound stilted at times, but this is more than made up for by an outstanding cast. Rhys-Meyers plays the calculating Chris admirably, but the real match-winner here is Scarlett Johansson, whose transition from sultry seductress to forlorn fancy-woman will surely garner a Best Supporting Actress nomination in March.

Dark, unpleasant and definitely not funny, Match Point is Woody Allen's best film in years. Having just reached three score years and ten, let's hope the director is on the verge of recapturing his '70s form...