The idea that much of a person's life is determined simply by chance is an idea that one often wants to ignore. We plan too much, make too many decisions, and have too much control to consider the fact that to a large degree our fate is out of our hands. Woody Allen explores fate and chance in an incredible way in his 2005 film Match Point. Both written and directed by the auteur, Match Point represents a departure for Woody Allen as the first of his films to be shot in London, contain no Woody Allen character, and is the first thriller-type film for the constant genre hopper. There is no such thing as a typical Woody Allen film, I've gone to great lengths to dispel that notion and now seeing 40 of his films in a row, I will never be convinced that he is as one-dimensional as he is often accused. Match Point stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson as two individuals who are desperate to enter the fold of the wealthy, so desperate in fact that they are willing to abandon their identities in order to achieve financial riches. A piercing look at the philosophical issues connected to morality and a scathing assessment of class-consciousness, Woody Allen lands on the right side of the net with Match Point.
Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a fish out of water in his new position as a tennis instructor at an upscale London tennis club. Previously earning a living as a professional tennis player, Chris couldn't accustom to the constant traveling and wished to find a place to call home. Raised by a modest family in Ireland, Chris believes he sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the London elite. Desperate to fit in and leave his one-bedroom flat, Chris will do anything he needs to in order to come into more money. An opportunity arises when he begins providing lessons for wealthy club member Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode). Throughout the course of their lessons, Chris and Tom become friends and Chris meets Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), who instantly finds herself attracted to Chris. Chloe has had an easy ride through life with more money than she's known where to spend and a father who will stop at nothing to make her happy, which essentially includes buying her a boyfriend. Chris is offered a job in one of Chloe's father's companies ensuring that his livelihood would be at stake if he were to ever leave Chloe. That knowledge doesn't stop Chris from becoming attracted to Tom's girlfriend Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) Nola is a struggling actress from America who is anxious to be brought into the fold of the aristocratic life. Nola, like many, doesn't want to struggle for money nor does she seem apt to put too much into her craft and would much rather marry into a good life. The passion Chris and Nola feel for each other is unable to be ignored and the two begin an affair, leaving Chris to decide if it is worth sacrificing the unfulfilled life that has been arranged for him to pursue the wild card that is Nola.
Toto, we"re not in New York anymore. Granted, this was not the first, nor would it be the last time Woody would shoot a film outside of New York but Woody Allen is synonymous in my mind with New York so it is always a shock for me to see a film of his in a different location. Match Point, like every Woody Allen film, has a brilliant opening monologue discussing the notion that most aspects of life are out of our control. The idea that we have no control over our lives brings about an interesting philosophical argument: If life is so meaningless we can't even control it, why not dismiss morality in order to give us the most pleasure. John Stuart Mill probably would have loved Match Point. There isn't a likable character that we ever see on screen, the audience is simply introduced to a host of people who exercise whatever means necessary to bring themselves the most pleasure. A brilliant bit of casting makes the audience wonder just what Chris is capable of from the first time we lay eyes on him. "To never have been born may be the greatest boon of all", this Sophocles quote makes an appearance again in a Woody Allen film but is better explored through the plot of Match Point. Since we're here, we may as well make the best of this existence and those in the film certainly draw no lines while chasing their particular blends of happiness. In addition to the philosophy commonly explored in Woody Allen's films, he also opens fire against the conflict in classes that still exists today. Nola desperately wants to be on the same playing field as her boyfriend Tom, but all doors seem to be closed to that possibility due to her being below his social standing, a fact that both are constantly reminded of by Tom's mother. Social standings are such that no matter how happy Tom is with Nola, she will never be welcome, ultimately causing their separation. Woody Allen makes a fantastic film questioning life's big issues all the while taking a scathing look at the societal constraints affecting everyone. Match Point is certainly not to be missed simply because it isn't a "funny one".