Monday, January 23, 2006

Match Point (Woody Allen 2005)

This has been getting rave reviews of the return-to-form variety so I wish somebody would send me a DVD of the version that critics have been seeing because it’s certainly not the one released to the country at large. In fact, Match Point looks like the work of a first-time scriptwriter who practically just paginated the outline. The opening laboriously sets up the situation before the film plods step by step through your basic conflict, character quirk and other elements of rudimentary writing. There’s no depth to anything: the characters either say exactly what they mean or obviously lie. And then towards the end when it looks like there’s a dramatic (well, really “dramatic” since few people will care by then) choice, Allen employs a major cheat and just has a mostly well-behaved young lad commit a double murder. So much for being a film for grownups. Allen might just as well have walked on-screen himself and said they all lived happily ever after or that they all died in a bomb explosion. It’s not like the murders were out of character for the protagonist because he’s pretty much a blank throughout (though Nola the girlfriend seems like two different people just played by the same actor; it’s really hard to reconcile the Nola at the start with the Nola at the end and even harder to imagine how she ended up with an apartment full of books in just a few weeks). I suspect he was intended to be blank but so what? If so I’d expect more substantial surroundings (Being There, Alice in Wonderland) or better yet Waugh-ean satire of total blankness. There’s a moment with Chris and Nola in a bar towards the beginning where it looks like Allen is toying with the idea of these two outsiders cynically climbing up in the social world but that must have been my imagination. And the seduction-in-the-rainy-field scene similarly seems like there’s a chance for a pull-out-the-stops flood like the operas that appear sporadically but really Allen doesn’t have that in him. So where else could it have gone? You might have contrasted Chris has shallow sensualist (wealth and power at home, blonde girlfriend out) with the similar tendencies of upper-class Tom. Or what about Nola as Sister Carrie in London? Or considering the blatant Dostoevsky reference perhaps either tormented psychology or Bresson-style aloofness? Or tell the story in five segments, each from the viewpoint of a different character? Just anything but what we got.