I just got home from seeing Woody Allen's new film "Match Point" - it was the biggest disappointment yet in a generally disappointing film season.
This film has been praised to the skies by people more important than me. I'll be damned if I can understand why.
For the record, I am a HUGE, old-school Woody fan. My heart beats wildly for films like "Bananas," "Sleeper," "Annie Hall," "Love and Death," "Manhattan," "Hannah and Her Sisters," and "Crimes and Misdemeanors." I can even find some guilty pleasures in his more pretentious offerings like "Interiors" and "Shadows and Fog." I was as thrilled as anyone to hear that "Match Point" was a career resurrection for the man who hasn't made a good movie in something like 15 years.
Instead I found myself infuriated, so much so that I had to sit down as soon as I got home (even though it's late and I'll be nodding off in the choir loft at church tomorrow morning) and list my greivances against "Match Point".
1) The Jonathon Rhys-Meyers character is Irish - and the contrast between him and the upper-class English family into which he insinuates himself is the pivotal point of the film. So why doesn't he speak with an Irish accent - or any kind of accent that would distinguish him from the upper-crust Hewett family? As it is, Rhys-Meyers and the Hewett's Rupert-Everett-lookalike son sound like they went to the same public school.
2) Admittedly, everything I know about the British Class System, I learned from PBS, BBC America, movies and novels. So I'm no expert. But I find it highly implausible that the upper crust Hewetts would allow a young man of Rhys-Meyers humble origins to become such an integral part of the family so easily - bestowing him with a cushy job in the family firm and allowing him to marry their darling daugther just because he's polite and shares their love of opera. Isn't it more likely that they'd invite him to dinner or a party and treat him as an amusing addition, kept at arm's length in a sort of friendly/sort of condescending way? Wouldn't it make more sense that he'd strive - but constantly fail - to be totally accepted by them - that he'd always be on the outside looking in? His effortless ascent into the upper classes here is pretty hard to swallow.
3) Woody's worst stock charcter is back - the unstable, unfocused, deeply neurotic young woman presented as Irresistable Sex Goddess. This time it's Scarlett Johanssen as the aspiring actress with perilously low self-esteem and a drinking problem, a sexy, pouty mouth and an enticing way with a come-on line. What does Allen see in these women? What is so attractive about a girl who can't get through the day without a drink or a night without a Seconal, and lives in a narcisstic haze of her own self-created problems? And don't confuse these characters with Annie Hall. Annie may have done her share of dithering and lah-de-dahing, but she ultimately has a good heart and good sense and you know she'll always land on her feet. By contrast, Johanssen's character and all her predecessors, are perpetually about two steps away from rehab or a suicide attempt. Allen's been fetishisizing women like this for a long time - at least since "Stardust Memories" -- and frankly, it's a little sick.
4) Woody still doesn't know how contemporary young adults talk or what matters to them. Some of Allen's worst recent films ("Anything Else" springs right to mind) present 20-somethings who are apparently unaware of the existence of email or cell phones and who rave about Cole Porter and Billie Holliday (and buy their music on VINYL for heaven's sake - in 2003!!!). The Hewett offspring and Rhys-Meyers are just British versions of the same anachronistic characters (thought at least they have cell phones). I half expected one of them to come bounding in, asking "Tennis, anyone?"
5) There's a conversation among the four young leads early in the film about faith and luck, and the roles they play in how our lives turn out. Emily Mortimer's character says "I don't believe in luck, I believe in hard work." Now, when someone makes a comment like that, you'd rightfully expect it to be a key to their character - you'd expect to see Mortimer elsewhere in the film working hard and dilligently at something, you'd expect her to be focused and energetic. Either that, or you'd expect some pointed, ironic scenes demonstrating why the charcter wouldn't know hard work if it punched her in the face. But you get neither here. Mortimer is just sort of gangly and sweetly compliant, without much personality or focus of her own. One wonders why Rhys-Meyers pursues her at all. Unlike, say, the Elizabeth Taylor character in "A Place in the Sun," Mortimer is not beautiful or desirable. She is way too available for trysts on Rhys-Meyers' shabby sofabed, and not in a rich-girl-goes-slumming fashion, but in an almost emotionally needy way. (Both Mortimer and her brother seem to have been raised in some sort of upper class hothouse without many friends outside the family - only late in the film do we get some fleeting appearances from their purported chums.) She does, in spoiled-rich-daughter fashion, pester Daddy to find Rhys-Meyers a job in the family firm, although she can't put together an intelligent sentence about what that firm is or what an actual job there would entail. Which brings me to point 6:
6) Rhys-Meyers is a tennis pro at the start of the film. It is highly unlikely that anyone who runs a global financial firm (as Papa Hewett does) would offer him a job just because he was a bright lad who worked his way up from nothing. Cause see, he worked himself up BY PLAYING TENNIS not handling corporate mergers. The fact that Allen doesn't get this - that he actually has Rhys-Meyers making "an impressive contribution" from his first week on the job - is such lazy writing and such an insult to people who actaully DO work in finance - that I don't even know how to finish this sentence!!