Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If a tennis player is two-timing, does that make it a double fault?: "Match Point"

First things first: I'm not much for Woody Allen.

It's a shame, really, because his early stuff is hilarious. I still laugh at Woody as a cellist in a marching band in "Take the Money and Run," and "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)" was funny, too. (You gotta wonder if Burt Reynolds ever tells anyone, "You know, I played the 'Sperm Switchboard Chief' in that ... ")

Then came the '80s, when Woody, riding his "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" success, really started to focus on relationships, feelings, blah blah blah. Since I was a kid and then a teenager, I could have cared less, and I've never been motivated to catch up on all that jazz. I TiVoed "Zelig" not long ago, but then erased it to make way for something else. We now have "Crimes and Misdemeanors" in the queue, and we'll see how long that lasts.

Now that you know where I stand with Woody, consider this: "Match Point" was pretty good. For one, all the talky-talky that Woody has his characters do is offset by choppy scenes that give a the impression of things moving along; no real danger of getting bogged down there. Then we get a genuinely messy affair that ups the tension more than you'd expect in an Allen movie. Seriously, he have made a movie called "Bullets Over Broadway," but you don't exactly expect anger and violence in his movies, right?

Set in England, "Match Point" has that coach from "Bend It Like Beckham" who later played a TV-movie Elvis, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, as an Irish tennis player who becomes a club pro and meets a wealthy guy whose sister he eventually marries. That seems to set this poor kid up for life, but there's just one problem: He's hot for his pal's fiancee, Scarletttttt Johanssssssson, who has the curious name of Nola. Doesn't that sound like part of New York ... you know, like short for "North of Lancaster Street?" Maybe it's just me.

If Johnny were able to resist Scarlett, this would have been a short and boring movie. Alas, he can't, and the movie follows their affair as Rhys-Meyers continues to rise the corporate ladder and become more deeply involved with the rich family, whose patriarch is the always-enjoyable Brian Cox.

But the real notable performances here are the two leads, with Rhys-Meyers sometimes too muted but generally good as the formerly humble kid who changes with success. Even better, though, is Johansson, who changes more dramatically from the smoky, sultry, oh-so-American fox to something that's sadder to watch, even though she still looks good. Really, I know she kind of has that butthole mouth, but it's hard to name anyone so young who comes off so much older, and has just the right amount of jiggle -- heck, let's call it baby fat -- to go with a nice body overall. And yes, I'm a caveman.

What I liked most, though, was how Allen bookended the movie with the theme of luck. The intro is a tad squishy, but it's a lot better once you get to the end of the movie. Not only is there a pretty good parallel scene, but what ultimately happens after that scene is nothing short of masterful, and I don't use that word lightly. Really, it's not often that I rave about a plot twist right after a movie, but this was the exception. I mean, who could have known that Scarlett was actually a guy? Talk about bad luck. (Damn, I ruined it!)


Post a Comment

<< Home