Match Point


Match Point is a film about a go-getter. One of those people who sees what he wants and goes for it. Who sees life as an opportunity. Someone who doesn’t let anything get between success and himself. I never liked this sort of person, but I particularly don’t like them now. And I vaguely distrust them.

Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is an ex-Tennis player who starts teaching rich people tennis so as to get by after his career finishes. He befriends one of his students quite quickly, and being one of those people I mentioned just now, manages very quickly to get invited home, meet the family, flirt with the sister, get employed by the dad, marry the sister, and get the most awesome house you’ll see in a film this year. Everything’s going fine, until he decides he wants his friend’s fiancee, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johanssen), too.

Well, all things considered, the affair goes pretty well too. No one seems to mind him skipping work for sex, and while everyone’s concerned that he and his wife aren’t having children, it’s not the sort of thing you could get suspicious about. All things considered, a lot of things go very well for Chris. But, eventually, they get out of control. And there’s only one way to deal with a situation that gets out of control. Well, there’s only one way if you’re stupid and greedy like Chris.

Match Point is really, really awkward to watch. The last time I watched a movie that made me feel this awkward was The Talented Mr Ripley, but that film has nothing on this for awkwardness. For a start, Ripley was intriguing and exotic. The opening hour or so of Match Point has is aggressively dull, courtesy of some insanely banal dialogue and dreary situations.1 The only shining lights are the casually amusing Matthew Goode as the rich friend, and the lovely Penelope Wilton2 as a terrifyingly believable bad mother-in-law. Brian Cox plays her husband, and is as reliable as ever — he just doesn’t get much to do. But, it must be said, if you get through this bit,3 things get quite involving.

There’s something about following a character around for an hour or so that really ties you to them, even if you intensely dislike him. Chris might be my least favourite character in a film for years, and yet once he starts to get in trouble, I found myself on the edge of my seat despite myself. I should probably give some credit to Woody Allen for this, and maybe some to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.4 By the end of the film, via a few touches of Crime and Punishment, and an ending that took me completely by surprise,5 I didn’t hate Match Point. It has some good stuff to say about fate, some reasonable stuff about passion and comfort, and perhaps the only time I’ve ever seen a man attempt to prove his masculinity by teaching table-tennis to a girl. But it was wearying, and almost never fun in any way. You have been warned.

  1. Banal is probably the best word I can come up with. Others may swing differently and go with crap. Is dull, straightforward and predictable dialogue realistic? I shall explore this theme and more in my upcoming book, “Just How Crap Are Normal People?”.
  2. Doctor Who‘s Harriet Jones, Prime Minister. While we’re on Doctor Who, I should point out that the guy who’s just been beaten by Nola at table tennis near the start of the film is in fact Mark Gatiss, author of ‘The Unquiet Dead’.
  3. And not everyone does.
  4. I can’t decide if he was a really boring actor, or acting really boring. As you may have noticed, I had that problem with this film a lot.
  5. I don’t want you thinking there’s an awesome awesome twist. There’s not. Something unexpected happens, but there’s no Tyler Durden moment. I don’t want to raise false expectations, and I’ve seen reviews that frankly, do. Like the review that practically told Jackson and I that the rain scene was awesome awesome. It’s not. It’s nice though.
The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are often afraid to realize how much of an impact luck plays. — Chris

5 Responses to “Match Point”

  1. Not everyone is up to the challenge of a boring movie. Why sit through something like match point when you could be fishing and picking fruit, virtually.

    The only problem I had with the film was the lack of action. I haven’t seen any other Woody Allen films so I wasn’t prepared for the dullness. I thought it might be more romantic comedy interesting than the straight-forward plainness of Lost in Translation.

  2. Ah, the complex allure of virtual fruit-picking.

    I don’t think it’s fair to Lost in Translation to call it straight-forward and plain. That film certainly had a slow pace to it but the visuals were fascinating, a lot more intriguing than the opening to this film.

    It might have been a bit on-the-nose if we’d started off with a strong romantic-comedy feel and followed up with, well, with what happened next.

  3. I shouldn’t call Lost in Translation plain. I meant slower paced. I was prepared for a slow film in LiT and enjoyed it. I liked watching Bill Murray hang out in Japan for 102 minutes, but then I liked his character. I was curious what would happen in Match Point but the movie was too dreary to watch.

    Jonathan Rhys-Meyers didn’t act very go-gettery. He lost interest in competitive tennis, hung out at the country club until someone asked him to the opera, Emily Mortimer got him a high paying job and eventually solved his problem mostly through luck.

    The random friend telling Johnathan that he saw him on the other side of town to where he should have been made me really dislike the film. I was surprised that Woody Allen would include such a clunky plot device. It turned out that it was not the start of the unravelling of the adulterer, but I didn’t have that much faith in Woody.

  4. Very insightful post on the film Andy. I wasn’t under the impression you’d seen it.

  5. I was in the cinema long enough to watch March of the Penguins. If Woody Allen can’t get his message across in the time it takes penguins to be born, swim, catch fish, grow up, fall in love, have babies and complete the circle of life then someone should tell him to hurry the bloody hell up.