I seem to be constitutionally incapable of trusting Jonathan Rhys Meyers in any role he plays. I just keep seeing Steerpike. (This is especially ironic when you consider that JRM is my casting for one of the protagonists in an unpublished novel. Apparently I don’t trust Julian?)
Anyway, I want to talk about Match Point (which has him in it), but There Will Be Spoilers, so don’t read past the cut if you don’t want to know.
For the record, my opinion is that you shouldn’t worry about being spoiled, as the movie is not that great.
I had problems throughout, caused by the impressionistic structure of the script and the hateful nature of Chris and Nola — seriously, I have so little sympathy for people who behave the way they do — and I had problems at the end, when a stroke of luck allowed Chris to get away with double murder and still have his happy wealthy life. But the real problem came after the fact, when I realized you could chop the first 100 minutes off the film and it wouldn’t matter.
I’m serious. The first 100 minutes sets up, in many fragmentary scenes, a more or less bog-standard tale of a guy marrying a woman he doesn’t love that much, lusting after a woman he’s not married to, starting an affair, and running into the expected problems, complete with fertility-challenged wife and knocked-up mistress. The touches that made the characters different — Chris’ lower-class background and previous career as a tennis player; Nola’s American background and failed career as an actress — ended up being irrelevant. It could have been any man, any woman, and the end could have played out the same. The Hewetts didn’t matter. Hell, given that Nola kept a diary, it didn’t even matter that she had a pre-existing connection to the Hewetts, and therefore to Chris; the cops had more than sufficient reason to suspect him. In the end, all that mattered were the events that followed from Chris’ decision to kill her.
Maybe that was supposed to be Woody Allen’s point. Maybe the film’s motif about the importance of chance, of being lucky, was supposed to support/be supported by the idea that you could swap two other characters into that story and it wouldn’t change anything, but it ended up making me feel cheated that I sat through 100 minutes of the characters being increasingly annoying and inexcusable in order to get to the 20 minutes of film that did anything interesting.
Sometimes I play “guess the inspiration,” trying to figure out what a writer’s jumping-off point was for a story. In this case, I suspect it was the thing about the ball catching the top edge of the net/the ring catching the top edge of the railing, and then the tennis thing was hung off that, and so on with everything else. But it all felt like setup for that one twist, the random chance that the ring didn’t go into the river and so ended up in the pocket of a druggie who (more random chance) got killed right after the double murder and so the cops decided he was the killer.
124 minutes is a long time to set up something that small.
So anyway. Could have made a good short story, or film equivalent. But at feature length? Please to be making it more complex, and making all the other stuff in the movie matter.