I have seen six, not five, movies in the theater this year, because I saw Match Point on Sunday during the Super Bowl. Woody Allen himself spoiled this movie for me, and since that definitely influenced my perspective on the movie, I will not do the same thing to you. Allen spoiled the movie in an interview with Entertainment Weekly where he said something like, “I had the idea for a movie where a guy kills the neighbor to make the first murder look like an accident.” And so I knew, right off, there would be murder, there would be an innocent bystander killed, and it wasn’t hard to figure who would be killing and doing the dying. So there was that prejudice, and there was the overhanging Scarlett Johansson dislike, both pointing toward the fact that I wasn’t going to love this movie before I’d even taken my seat.
I still liked the movie. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was very, very good, particularly in the little break-throughs of regret after the killings (sliding down the wall after shooting the neighbor, weeping briefly in the cab). He made his character believably, hm, evil seems too strong, but it’s close. Believably flawed and logical. I loved the creepy logic of his world — the calculation behind everything but this one affair, which comes to a cold, premeditated end… nicely done.
The point I felt was the weakest was the “romance” between Nola and Chris. The physical chemistry was pretty obvious, but they were both such self-aware characters, presented as scheming and perhaps ambitious, that the affair just didn’t ring completely true for me. This may vary depending on the take you have on the opening scenes — is Chris Wilton a completely scheming social climber who claims to love opera at an opportune moment, so as to attach himself to an obviously wealthy family? I think so, and that kind of advanced planning — that kind of premeditation — implies a kind of dogged focus that made some of his later risk taking — pursuing Nola into the fields at the Hewett household, following her out of the box at the opera — seem out of character. I’m not saying it couldn’t be plausible, I’m just saying I needed more — just a tiny bit more than their single pre-sexual-relationship scene in the bar — to believe this. The script didn’t fail here, though — Scarlett Johansson did. Nola was meant to be one of those romantic femme fatale characters that leapt off the screen and declared it impossible for Chris not to fall for her, and I just never got that. She seemed stiff in her performance, and the dialog sounded unnatural — it sounded like dialog, or like lines from a play. So had I been able to really see the leading woman here as an absolute siren, then this whole problem would’ve been resolved.
Allen’s been playing on a theme recently. “Melinda and Melinda” had a similar question of luck/fate at its heart, though it also had laughter at its core. There’s no laughing at the matter in “Match Point,” which makes it sharper and smarter and more difficult, and made me like it more, too. I read a kind of late-life view into this couple of fate-questioning movies, a universal “Why me and not him?” type of question from a very famous man. That there’s not enough credit given to luck is not a subtle point here — it’s spoken aloud to open and close this movie — but it’s still just as interesting, because he chose to write and direct the movie in such a way that it’s never obvious whether Chris has perfect or completely absent luck. And that’s what I liked best about it.