Directed by: Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s oeuvre is so large at this point that you can compare any one film to another. In fact you can split his films into three general categories. There’s the Annie Hall style rom-com, the genre (usually fantasy) film like The Purple Rose of Cairo and Sleeper, and, finally, the Crime and Punishment category, under which Match Point falls, as well as Crimes and Misdemeanours, Irrational Man, etc.
I keep running into the same problem with recent (post 2000ish) Woody Allen films in that I find the first thirty to forty minutes almost interminable. Then after the first thirty to forty minutes they become watchable again. It’s how I felt towards Vicky Christina Barcelona and Blue Jasmine but it’s Match Point that really encapsulates this phenomenon.
The primary problem, the problem from which all subsequent problems stem, is the increase in length as compared to his earlier work. Match Point runs 132 minutes which is no longer an uncommon length for a Woody Allen film, which would have been unthinkable pre-2000s where anything above 100 minutes was stretching it. This wouldn’t be a problem if the increase was beneficial in any way but it isn’t, the only effect it has is to make the set-up painfully slow. When one thinks back to the greatest Woody Allen films, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Annie Hall, Manhattan, there is rarely a wasted scene and the result is a narrative that is both as heavy as the literature that is constantly referred to, yet as light as the jazz that plays during the opening credits.
Overtness is the second problem with many of Allen’s recent efforts, although it’s less problematic than the length. I usually don’t mind when a film is upfront about its themes but Match Point undoubtedly oversteps the mark on a number of occasions. There’s a very short scene early on when Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) picks up Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and starts reading it. That’s it. That’s all that happens in the scene. The film may as well have been paused and the words ‘by the way, this film shares similar themes with Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment’ scrolled along the screen. Again though this stems from the increase in length. Rather than a throwaway line (maybe even a joke) a whole scene is devoted to something that anyone with a passing interest would have figured out on their own.
Match Point has all the irritations mentioned above whilst having the added annoyance of a weak central performance from Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He just has no character, he is a charisma vacuum. With his wooden softly spoken delivery, irritating over-politeness, and frankly dull personality, I couldn’t say it came as much of a shock when he resorted to murder. He could have been a closeted serial killer the whole film and it would have been fitting. The performance undercuts the themes to some extent; how can a character so un-emotive be plagued by guilt? The performance is at odds with the script, which with better casting, rarely a problem in Woody Allen films, could have been far more effective.
Rating – 58/100