Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Match Point, a Review

Just finished watching Woody Allen's 2006 movie Match Point.

This is just the draft of a review, with just my most vivid thoughts, because it is very very late and I should go to bed.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is not actually sexy--he is like the corporation-developed version of sexy. He is to truly sexy what Dr. Pepper 10 is to a double Manhattan cocktail. Sure, it's being marketed as "extreme" and "manly," but there's no real intoxication available.

JR-M's character is an up and coming Irish lad who lands himself in the lush fields of a wealthy British family. He's self effacing and punctilious about paying his own way--is this really how he is, or has he calculated that this is the approach most likely to endear him to them? There is no way of knowing, which is kind of the problem with the whole movie. Is his character opportunistic? Is he consciously scaling the socio-economic pyramid, or is he just such a Nice and Charming Guy who really loves his wife but has a problem with a hyper-sexualized temptress (Scarlet Johansson)?

Chris and Nola (JR-M and ScarJo) are two lovely people, and their frantic affair is designed to give the movie some sizzling sex scenes, but somehow they end up feeling rather off. As though Woody Allen wants to shoot truly hot, R-rated sexuality, but for some reason, he's gone and cast his own grand-daughter in the temptress role, and he can't quite take the brakes off. So the scenes are fundamentally prudish, with Johansson so thoroughly clothed that the scenes are inert and unconvincing.

Rhys-Meyers is also not truly believable as someone who is addicted to this woman, especially as all the spit and fire of their first encounter (she's playing ping-pong against all comers for a thousand pounds a game) is immediately burned off in the subsequent encounters. After that first meeting, she retreats, no longer challenging him, but constantly failing to exercise agency in her career (her attempts to become an actress in London consists of nothing but failed auditions) and in her relationship with Rhys-Meyers's character. (He controls when they meet, and where, and she simply frets about whether they have enough time to go all the way to her flat. Egregiously, there is a scene where she doesn't want to go back to her flat, since they have already spent an hour in a hotel room--and then she does.) While he's apparently sexually voracious (he is also simultaneously performing at home in eternally unsuccessful attempts to get his wife pregnant), Johansson's character doesn't really seem to be getting much out of it, as evidenced by her objections to the amount of time they actually do spend in bed. She'd like to be doing other things--like eating, or going out for drinks.

Rhys-Meyers is also completely sure-footed doing some sort of high finance work in his father-in-law's company, which is obviously world dominating, since it's located in the Swiss Re building (also known colloquially as the "Erotic Pickle," although you won't learn that from the movie). The scenes of corporate life are oddly non-specific, as though Allen doesn't understand how finance works, and couldn't be bothered to learn anything about it. By the end of the movie, he's depicted as hyper-competent, speaking Japanese while bowing to foreign visitors.

It's basic Japanese--even I understood it--"Domo arigato gaizemas. Sayonara." The work environment scenes just crackle with the awkwardness that is Woody Allen not knowing how financial firms work and how people talk and interact in them.

Anyway, Scarlett Johansson's character simply gets worse and worse. She gets pregnant, blames JR-M, since he insisted on having sex without protection that time. She actually says "I told you that I didn't want to do it without protection, but you couldn't wait." So of course, she wants to marry this guy and raise a family, because that's going to work well. And she nags and harangues and calls him at embarrassing times, trying to get him to tell his wife and come be with her. Because by this point she has zero power of her own, and can only wait until JR-M can be arsed to take care of her.

Honestly, it's fundamentally sad. She starts the film like Lauren Bacall, all sultry sexuality and assertiveness, and then immediately gets turned into a victim by the script. It's very very sad, and it's made weird by her shrewish insistence that she wants to be married--because women love marrying their rapists, right? Coupled with the unsettling approach-avoidance dynamic in Allen's direction of the sex scenes, and this is ultimately a misfire of a movie.

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