Woody Allen's legacy is so great that he really needs not make another stellar film in his career. Like Speilberg or Lucas, he could do well by just sitting back, relaxing and enjoying his elder years. But then again, what would a great director be if he were not trying to push the envelope, even at age 71?
Allen's latest offering to his massive portfolio of film is Match Point, a story of obsession, betrayal and passion. The story puts young Chris, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, in between his loving and wickedly rich wife Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and the seductive fiance of Chloe's brother (Scarlett Johansson). We see Chris as he meets Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) and is all to quickly swept up in a world of wealth and privilege. He soon falls for Chloe and becomes part of the family, all the while yearning for Nola (Johansson), who is already engaged to Tom. And just like so many, Chris falls into the trap of Nola's seduction and begins an affair that can only end in the worst way, with someone getting severely hurt.
Allen's story is one that has been seen before, but just like every other Woody Allen flick, it has not been seen in quite the same light. The film's great accomplishment is its visual style, which is shown off pretty well in the transfer to DVD. The costumes, the sets and even the lighting all add to the ever changing mood of the film. In the beginning the world of the rich and powerful seems so large and intimidating, then the film grows more and more mundane and depressing as the main character slips deeper and deeper into his web of deception. The look and feel of this film is what makes it such a sexy, thrilling ride through the life of a man caught up in obsession.
But as we all know, a great visual style cannot by itself make a terrific film; it must be supported by great performances. This is where Match Point seems to trail off a little. Johansson and Rhys Meyers seem to have a great on screen "heat," but it is short-lived and underused. And while they are great in their most intimate moments on screen together, separately their characters really don't draw us in. I could buy their emotions and connect with their situations, but for some reason I didn't like them. Maybe it is what Woody Allen had planned for me, but by the end of the film I was not rooting for either character, I was rooting against them. Truly a sign of when the acting does not live up to the standards of the writing is the fact that even though I didn't like the performances, I still enjoyed the film. But that is a sign of a film that is directed very well, at least in the opinion of this critic. Combine the great visual style of the film with the sub-par acting though, and you have a film that is not spectacular but good. Just plain good.