Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Game, set, match Woody

Many of you probably think you know Woody Allen, and you've had enough. What is he except an over-the-hill pervert whose best work is long behind him?

I admit that I felt much the same way, and therefore found it hard to get excited about "Match Point", despite the early accolades. Boy, was I wrong, at least for this one.

This is Woody like we've never seen him before. First off, there's very little that's funny here, in the best way. It's a dark tale about the truly evil side of human nature, and where it can take us if unchecked. If you can remember back to "Crimes and Misdemeanors", travel back to there and think much, much darker, but even more entertaining.

The story is about a young man (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) with a mysterious past (the best kind for movies, of course) who works his way into a wealthy London family by befriending the son (Matthew Goode), marrying the daughter (Emily Mortimer) and eventually going to work for the father (national comedic treasure Brian Cox, all serious business here). Things get more complicated when Meyers' character meets, falls for and impregnates the son's fiancee, played by Scarlett Johansson.

To give away any more would be a crime, but I'll just say the rest hinges on what Meyers will do to get out of this proverbial tight spot and stay in his new family. Allen keeps the suspense high until the end, and Meyers never plays his cards too early. It's a restrained but rigorous peformance that carries the film.

As much I love Scarlett, and after "Ghost World" she had a life's worth of goodwill in my book, she's the weak link here. She ably makes us believe she's a struggling American actress (because, well, with this material, she really is), but her kvetching about her pregnancy predicament is tedious. Mortimer, on the other hand, is perfect as a woman so needy she turns a blind eye to all of this. Johansson is Woody's new favorite leading lady, so let's hope she fares better starring with him in his next film, "Scoop."

But back to "Match Point." What makes it work almost as much as the suspense is the sense of place you get in Woody's new base of London. From little jokes about London real estate, to luscious cinematography in neighborhoods that show us just why it's so impossible to live there, he makes it home just like he did NYC in "Manhattan" and "Annie Hall," and thankfully brings us all with him.

Along with "Match Point" starting Friday at the AmStar in Macon, there's an exclusive run of "Mrs. Henderson Presents" at the Galleria in Centerville. It's an arthouse bonanza for us, so please, please go out and enjoy it so we can get more.

1 comment:

edieraye said...

The ending made the entire movie for me. There were times that it stretched on and on and seemed as if it would never end. But the ending was so perfect it made the rest of the movie seem better. The friend I saw the movie with disagrees. He didn't care for the ending and was dissappointed that there wasn't more humor.

P.S. Loved Mrs. Henderson Presents, saw it as part of a double feature with The Matador. Both far exceeded my expectations.