Saturday, January 07, 2006


Woody's comeback

By Edward Copeland
Having been burned for a decade now by Woody Allen, I was skeptical whenever anyone touted one of his new films as a return to form. In my opinion, he hadn't produced a satisfying film since Bullets Over Broadway in 1994. So, when people would tout things such as Sweet and Lowdown or Melinda and Melinda, I'd inevitably be disappointed. I didn't even bother with Anything Else, because to me it seemed as if the critics praising it didn't even believe what they were saying. Needless to say, when the groundswell began for Match Point, my expectations were low. That's why I'm pleased to say that it's good — not great, not near any of Woody's masterpieces — but solid.

The main reason is Match Point doesn't seem remotely like a Woody Allen film, partly because of its British setting and mostly British cast and its lack of yuks of any kind. It also contains more visual inventiveness than one usually associates with Allen as a director.

On the other hand, even if you didn't know Woody wrote it, you would recognize plot points that seem familiar. Most of the reviews have given it away, but if you want to stay away from spoilers, avert your eyes now, even though I'll be as vague as possible.

The last act of Match Point plays like the Martin Landau half of Crimes and Misdemeanors and I'm afraid to say that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is no Martin Landau. While you empathized with Landau's character and his conflict, you never get any sense about how you should feel about Rhys-Meyers. Is he a cad? Is he a nice guy in over his head? Villain? Being justly punished (or not)? Scarlett Johansson is good as his mistress, but a sudden switch in her character burdens her and seems to occur mainly to justify the movie's final act.

Aside from those criticisms, for the most part, Woody is trying something new — and after inflicting a decade of duds on us such as Celebrity, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending, etc., this is a good thing.

Some critics have overpraised Match Point to some degree, but it's at least understandable this time because it is a byproduct of an actual good creative effort instead of wishful thinking.

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I was lucky enough to see this when I knew nothing about the plot... had no idea where things were going and was just shocked to see steamy sex scenes in a Woody Allen movie. I had no idea it would go in the direction it did.

I liked Rhys-Davies... no Landau, certainly, but I liked the fact that his character was hard to get a hold on.
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