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Allen's 'Match Point' serves up existential lesson on role of luck, fate
By Mark Moorehead

January 21, 2006

Match Point begs the question: Without justice can there be meaning in the universe?

Director Woody Allen leaves the answer to the audience as we follow young Irish tennis instructor Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) into the upper crust of British high society. His working-class roots and lack of self-control lie just below the surface as he insinuates himself into a prominent family at the local country club.

Few actors could avoid looking a wee bit awkward in the role of an undereducated leisure class wannabe. However, Meyers pulls it off brilliantly with his soft-spoken, confident demeanor and affable nature.

Yet his character is constantly challenged by inner demons as he struggles for acceptance. He strategically walks the line between looking like an overly grateful charity case and being too aloof and prideful among his new rich friends. Chris does have a plan, but blind luck plays an important role. He’s well aware that the rewards of teaching the rich and untalented far outweigh the rewards of being a mediocre tennis player on the pro circuit. He’s hoping a wealthy member of the club will eventually offer him a better paying job. Good fortune soon shines on him, producing more than just a good job offer.

Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), one of Chris’ tennis students at the club, introduces Chris to his wealthy parents, Alec (Brian Cox) and Eleanor (Penelope Wilton), and his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), all of whom immediately take a liking to him.

Before you can say 30-love, the ex-tennis pro becomes a member of the aristocracy by accepting a high-paying job from Tom’s wealthy dad and marrying his kid sister. What more could a young man want?

Well, if you enjoy pushing your luck and temping fate, you also go after Tom’s lusty fiancé Nola (Scarlett Johansson) as Chris does. But you’ll wait until Nola has a weak moment after being ridiculed by Tom’s elitist mother.

Nola wastes no time informing Chris that their moment together was a mistake and that she must resume her effort to marry as well as Chris did. Unfortunately, the fickle finger of fate fails to rescue Nola from her destiny as Tom ends their engagement.

Chris is good at playing doubles. Upon hearing the news, he heads to Nola’s flat faster than a slam serve and begins a passionate affair that becomes predictably more difficult to conceal.

Johansson is superb as the brash, outspoken and sensual aspiring actress. She ingeniously exposes her character’s strength and weaknesses at the same time with a vigor that eventually transforms her complex character from a free-spirited, glamorous blonde on her way up the food chain, to the down-and-out pregnant “other woman” demanding that Chris stop making excuses and tell his wife he’s leaving her.

Problem is, Chris likes cashmere sweaters from Ralph Lauren, and the thought of living in a trailer park has little appeal. What’s a scoundrel to do?

Clearly one or both of the women in this love triangle will be terribly wounded by his choice. What price will Chris be forced to pay for his philandering? The tragic answer will surprise you.

The existential theme of this film is the role that fate and luck play in life.

Woody Allen’s more cynical side would argue there is no order in the universe, no grand plan; simply random and chaotic movement indifferent to our existence where fate is more often cruel and unjust.

But then there’s Allen’s more optimistic side that would argue that good luck and bad luck are delivered in equal amounts, as articulated by Chris early in the film when he says, “’The man who said ‘I’d rather be lucky than good’ saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second it can go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.”

From this reviewer’s perspective, the ball went forward and Woody Allen wins with Match Point.

Pecan Grove Estates resident Mark Moorehead writes regularly for Wrangler News.


Mark's Movie Meter

General Audiences: A

Entertaining Greek tragedy in contemporary London, starring Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. More than love is sacrificed in this examination of the rewards and pitfalls of social climbing among the ruling class.

Family Audiences:
Rated R for some sexuality. Adult themes, not suitable for children.






























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