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Match Point

#464 - Match Point
Woody Allen, 2005

A newly-employed tennis instructor starts to ingratiate himself with a rich family by promising to marry the daughter but soon begins an affair with the son's girlfriend.

Credit where credit's due - Match Point at least tries something a little different to just about every other Allen film I've seen (this makes the seventh one I've seen as of writing). There's no character that could be loosely be considered a surrogate for Allen himself, which is often a major sticking point regarding my appreciation (or lack thereof) of his films. However, the film still gives us a rather reprehensible protagonist to follow in the form of a tennis pro (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), who is quickly established as a smooth-talking social climber who warms up to a pair of wealthy siblings (Matthew Goode and Emily Mortimer). Mortimer becomes infatuated with him, while Rhys-Meyers does not share her feelings but instead becomes attracted to Goode's fiancée (Scarlett Johansson) and intends to start his own affair with her.

While Match Point changes things up significantly by shifting the action to England, using predominantly British actors, and introducing certain complications at the end of the second act that feel rather unlike anything I've seen in other Allen films (though they could have happened for all I know), for much of its running time it still feels like a mess of flat characters interacting in manners that come across as theatrical yet soulless (even though the actors playing them are generally decent). While one could argue that that is the intent when it comes to Rhys-Meyers' character, it doesn't make him or his self-inflicted predicament especially engaging even when less guilty characters like Mortimer's and Johansson's are involved and are capable of being damaged by his cruel and self-serving nature. As such, most of the film only feels like it's biding time waiting to kick things into high gear for the rather surprising third act, which almost made me give this a higher rating. Unfortunately, it's the kind of slow-burning build-up that's too slow and uninteresting for its own good and so the third act feels like too little too late, especially considering how it works as a shallow exploration of the themes of chance and fate that are mentioned during an opening shot that uses a tennis ball striking the top of a net as a metaphor for said themes.