Film Review: Match Point (2005)

“I’m so sick of this acting thing, it’s just not working out”

If Woody Allen’s Match Point had been set in the Hamptons as it was originally meant to be, I think I would really like this film but as it is, its relocation to London proves to be a constant distraction as this glossily cinematic version of my hometown is often ludicrous. Yes it is fiction and yes it is set in the world of the idly uber-rich with all their casual trips to Ralph Lauren and chauffeured cars but as with James Bond surfing down the escalators on the tube in Skyfall it’s the little things that draw the attention. 

From the unrelenting RP accents to scarcely believable dialogue in the “London Police”, the revelation that being “born in Belgravia” is the key to a lifetime of cultural invitations and the insistence on only showing postcard-pretty shots of London, Match Point has little anchoring in the real world and especially not in the city where it is now set. Putting aside the unlikelihood of shop workers being able to afford cabs home everyday and even worse, neighbours actually talking to each other in a friendly manner, it’s all just so superficial.

The noirishly twisting story doesn’t always seem that bad. Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Chris is a washed up tennis pro who nonetheless manages to parlay a coaching position at an exclusive tennis club into something much more by chumming up with Matthew Goode’s Tom and chatting up his sister, Emily Mortimer’s Chloe. They sweep him up into their orbit of gala openings, regular trips to the opera and Daddy’s country pile but as he gets seduced by their money and lifestyle, he’s also distracted by Tom’s US wannabe actress girlfriend Nola, the luminous Scarlett Johansson. 

Married to Chloe but sleeping with Nola, Chris is thus torn between the high life with a woman he tolerates or an impoverished life made rich through love and lust. It’s hard to care too much about it, though there is a shiny appeal to much of the film in all its hollow beauty. Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton are good fun as Tom and Chloe’s bluntly upper-class parents, Goode and Mortimer present shallow entitlement well and Meyers and Johansson sometimes crackle with their sexual tension, filling in a least some of the need for decent characterisation.

And there’s a ton of excellent cameos, some of them genuinely blink and miss ‘em – a sorely underused Miranda Raison as Tom’s new wife Heather, Paul Kaye’s plain-talking estate agent, Margaret Tyzack dispensing wisdom about peanut butter on mousetraps, Simon Kunz and Geoffrey Streatfeild as businessmen who work in the Gherkin (where else…), Rupert Penry-Jones looking pretty… And as unrealistic as Nola getting an audition there was, it was nice to see the Royal Court in the background though The Woman in White’s big feature falls flat now.

To be fair, there is a cracking twist in the final minutes but it is a long time coming and I’d lost much interest by then. Something of a disappointment. 

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