Match Point (Allen, 2005)
Allen breaks a miserable dry spell with Match Point. Since Deconstructing Harry, of 1997, he very much earned the popular criticism of material regurgitation. He stepped outside of his comfort zone and outside of the United States, creating a crafty homage to Hitchcock and Chabrol.
First of all, it was nice to see Allen working in London. Among working directors, he is the most capable of capturing the truth in a town. It would eventually come to full fruition in the recent Midnight in Paris, but his love for orgiastic civilization translates to film just as well in London as it does in Manhattan.
It was in stepping outside of his modus operandi that he pulls out of the rut, but so many of the trademarks are there. The usual preoccupation with fatalism and truth are pinned onto an amiable troupe of Upper Crust Brits. That is, except our protagonist. While Allen is not the only writer capable of successfully building a main character of such loathsome quality, he is the most fancy about it. Chris is played remarkably by Jonathan Rhys Meyers – a casting decision that quite possibly vaulted the picture from mediocrity to definition. His glib manipulation is, at first, difficult to understand. But by the end of Match Point, we are the audience to his every thought. The deposition with the detectives is a fascinating example of filming the thoughts, not the words. We see into his self-loathing and it looks great.
So much cannot be said for Johansson, whose struggling actress character was probably looked at with some irony by Allen. She is the archetypal Allen Sexy Nymphette. In a performance that begins with such intrigue and fantasy, it rapidly devolves into a schizomaniacal tour of her body and methods of anger. I don’t blame this on Allen. I’ve yet to be impressed by her, and I am beginning to think that Hollywood feels the same way.
Finally, it is worth noting how Match Point is so much of a charming tip-of-the-hat in Hitchcock’s direction. A witty use of Checkhov’s Gun. A wedding ring MacGuffin. Allen succeeds admirably in imitating the shapes and structures of an inimitable force. Match Point ends up being like a sissy twisted up version of Frenzy with much more wit and character. Certainly not Allen’s most monumental effort. And not one that demands much rewatching. But it broke perhaps the worst cycle of work by a respectable director. Too bad he didn’t sustain the tradition of avoiding expectation.