A career resurgence is something truly difficult to pull off. Do it correctly and you’ll have no trouble whittling your way back into the mainstream in no time. Many a director and actor has managed to do so after years of hard work, others are nowhere near as successful. Woody Allen was one individual who managed to collect a string of truly poor works and knock everyone out of the park with Match Point, ditching the glossy streets of New York for the rain-soaked settings of London. But are the contemporary reviews really as good as they make Match Point out to be? Or has it aged about as well as every other post-1993 Woody Allen project?
Thankfully, Match Point is an enjoyable piece. By far one of his more entertaining pieces from the 21st century. When you think about it though, that’s not really all that big a compliment. The majority of the work he created during this time was near terrible, with a handful of them truly unwatchable and beyond the pale of boring. Match Point throws us into the life of Chris Wilton, a retired tennis player turned coach who looks to make his way into the high society of those that frequent the club he works. A chance meeting with Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) and Wilton finds himself working his way up a rapidly shifting social ladder, and soon finds himself head over heels for Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) and Chloe Hewett Wilton (Emily Mortimer).
For years prior to this piece, Allen had only dabbled in light hearted comedic romps that looked to challenge the audience as little as possible. Predictable filler that would line the cinemas for a couple of weeks and then drop out of the limelight, and rightly so. They’re nothing compared to the chilling thrillers we know he is capable of creating. The sudden release of Match Point at this time provides us with a plot similar to that of 1989’s Crimes and Misdemeanours but without the effective storytelling elements that made the Martin Landau led comedy drama so engaging to watch. Johnathan Rhys Meyers (Wilton) provides a strong enough lead, he looks completely blank for much of the film. His actions and emotive response are typical to that of the generic leading man, and he does nothing to break this stereotype.
It’s probably for the best though. This blank canvas provides us with room for an audience to adapt to him and his actions against Nola and Chloe. A love triangle of sorts, one that blends seduction and adultery in ways that make this film seem completely against the very principles of Allen’s direction. His new style of direction feels something more catered to a generic feeling, but it’s enough of a change to bring fresh new life into a well-rounded script. Johansson’s performance is stellar, a real break from the norm where she often plays a level headed individual, whereas Brian Cox gives a supporting role that makes me ponder why he hasn’t been given more complex, serious roles.
Full of faces that the everyday British audience will recognise (Mark Gatiss has a very brief cameo, while Ewen Bremner and James Nesbitt give solid detective work a try in the final twenty minutes of the movie), Match Point is a strong endeavour that just so happened to come along at the right time. What truly needs questioning though is whether or not the film is marked as a great Allen piece because it truly is that, or because of how great it is compared to the dire attempts he gave in the years leading up to Match Point. Whatever the case, it’s a solid enough film that doesn’t come close to the standard we would expect from an all-time great, but at least it’s not another Melinda and Melinda piece.