Match Point is a film from fifteen years ago, written and directed by Woody Allen. Apparently he originally intended to set the story in the US, but funding issues prompted him to come to Britain. The result is a film that seems to me to be rather untypical of his work, but not wholly unrecognisable. There are touches of Dostoevsky and Dreiser, yes, but also a hint of Ruth Rendell. For this film is a psychological thriller, although its true nature isn't apparent until the later stages of the story.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is Chris Wilton, a charismatic former tennis player, who at the start of the film introduces us to the central theme of the film. It's about luck - does the tennis ball that touches the net drop on the right side or not? The script (which was nominated for an Oscar) plays with this notion rather cleverly. Chris becomes friendly with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode, very smooth) and is introduced to his very wealthy family. Tom's Dad (Brian Cox in benevolent mood) is a rich tycoon, his mother (Penelope Wilton) is a charming meddler and his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) is instantly smitten with Chris.
The snag is that, once Chris meets Tom's fiancee, he is smitten with her. Scarlett Johansson plays Nola Rice, a glamorous American actress. She and Chris have a fling, but Chris marries Chloe and Tom splits up with Nola. Trouble is, Chris subsequently bumps into Nola and the affair resumes. You just know that it isn't going to end well. And for some of the characters, it doesn't.
The lead actors are terrific, and the impressive supporting cast includes Margaret Tyzack, James Nesbitt, Mark Gatiss, John Fortune, Steve Pemberton, and Alexander Armstrong. It's a long film, but it doesn't really sag prior to the dramatic events of the last twenty minutes. The characters may not be loveable, but they are interesting, and cleverly presented so that their unappealing attitudes aren't as much of a turn-off as perhaps they ought to be. Overall, a very enjoyable film.
I feel very much as you do about this film - I re-watched it a while back and liked it more than I expected. It certainly couldn't be accused of having too many likeable characters! And the London details were a bit wobbly at time. But still, it kept me watching.. It reminded be in some ways of A Kiss Before Dying, the boy on the make trying to keep the plates spinning.
Yes, the comparison with A Kiss Before Dying is very perceptive. That's a book I ought to read again. It's been a long time.
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