MATCH POINT & MORE: Saturday was cool and rainy...very English...so it was a perfect day to go and see Woody Allen's much-acclaimed new film, Match Point. It's been heralded as his "return to form," "comeback," "best since Crimes & Misdemeanors," blah, blah, blah. I agree that this is Woody's best film in ages, but not his best since C&M. Some of the reviewers seem to be forgetting Bullets Over Broadway, Husbands & Wives, Manhattan Murder Mystery (which is hilarious) and Deconstructing Harry. Don't get me wrong, Woody has made some really, really shitty films lately. Anything Else and Melinda & Melinda are so awful that they should be pulled from circulation and burned. What Woody has done so perfectly in Match Point is move back into drama. This is his most dramatic film since Another Woman, which along with Interiors and September, are my favorite Woody films of all time. I can now add Match Point to that trilogy.

Set in modern-day London, Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a social climbing former tennis star, Chris Wilton, who's now broke and teaching the game at a snooty London club. It's there he meets the Hewetts, a filthy-rich English family who love the country life and have built their fortune in stocks and trading. Tom Hewett, the handsome young son, takes a shine to Chris and offers to take him to the opera. Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) falls hard for Chris and begins to shower him with gifts, over-affection and promises of having daddy get him a job in the family business. However, when Chris meets Tom's fiancee, Nola (Scarlett Johannson), they begin a torrid affair. Nola, a down-on-her-luck actress from Colorado, at first seems to move hesitantly into the affair with Chris, but she's also a social climber and has no desire to return to her meager upbringing in America.

While Chris moves up the company ladder, marries Chole and moves into one of the most stunning loft apartments ever put on screen (the audience gasped at the vista of the Thames, Parliament and all of London that appears in the loft's windows). Tom dumps Nola for a more suitable girl and Nola disappears. At a chance meeting nearly a year later, Chris and Nola reignite their affair and it's here the film gets darker and more like Crimes & Misdemeanors. When Nola begins to turn up the heat on Chris to ditch his wife and then announces her pregnancy, Chris suddenly realizes that he's become too comfortable in the world of country estates, chauffeured cars and living the high life provided by the Hewetts. Chris decides the only way to hold on to his new life is to kill Nola.

I won't go any further. The rest of the film -- it's twists and turns, unexpected gallows humor and thrilling final half hour -- are just top notch filmmaking. I had to remind myself a number of times that this was a Woody Allen film. Gone are the characters who act as Woody surrogates, speaking just like him and adopting his mannerisms. Also gone is the mannered dialogue that choked the life out of many of his films, including Melinda & Melinda. The only thing that reminds you of Woody Allen is the way he uses a city...in this case London...as a silent main character. Where Manhattan used to be his milieu, he treats London with the same golden touch. When Chris and Nola happen by chance to meet in a London street, it does harken back to the old Woody films as does the camera's fluid movement through interiors.

What really makes the film so riveting is Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johannson, who are both so hot I want to have a menage-a-trois. Both have lips you just know they could put to good use on various parts of your anatomy. Something else Woody added to this film was sex...hot, lusty, wet sex. When Chris and Nola go at it, they have a smoldering chemistry. Definitely a return to form for Woody, not to mention a new voice as well. I hope his next film, also starring Johannson and set in London, can match up to Match Point.

This has been a very busy weekend. On Friday night, I went down to visit my parents and then yesterday after the film, I went to the Word Diversity Collective event, Slam Amok! It was a great evening of poetry and I was thrilled that Theresa Davis took first prize in the slam. I was also delighted to run into Michael Guinn from Texas, who hosted one of the readings I performed at last year at the Austin International Poetry Festival. Gypsee-Yo blew the roof off the place with her feature set. I worked on a new poem, inspired by the poor whale that swam up the Thames in London and died during a rescue attempt. Somehow that event, the longing to be back in London and Virginia Woolf's suicide attempt in 1913 have all coalesced into a new poem. Don't ask me how it happened, because I'm not sure myself.

Today, I taped interviews with Gypsee and Karen Head for The Business of Words. The show continues to gain popularity and the guests have been first rate. My interview with Mary Chi-Whi Kim will begin airing on Tuesday, and the ones with Gypsee and Karen will follow in the weeks ahead. Make sure to check them out.

Tonight, I'm staying in and watching Bleak House.

Comments

Clare said…
Glad you enjoyed Matchpoint as I totally hated it and was really disappointed that I hated it.

Look forward to hearing what you thought about Bleak House.
Collin said…
I really loved Match Point, but I'm a big Woody Allen fan. However, I think this film would appeal to those who've never liked Woody films. But, maybe not. :)

I watched the first two hours of Bleak House last night and I'm totally hooked. Gillian Anderson is superb. I'll try to write a review later tonight or tomorrow. I want to watch it again.
jenni said…
Thanks for the review. I think I'll check it out. I agree his last few films have been a snore. But this one sounds promising. Cool!

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