thoughts on Match Point

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 (This is especially ironic when you consider that JRM is my casting for one of the protagonists in an unpublished novel.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.

0 Responses to “thoughts on Match Point”

  1. therinth

    Oooooh…i have got to get Gormenghast on DVD one of these days. I’d almost forgotten about that!

  2. stabeest

    This! This was my problem with the movie exactly!

    Also, the scene at the end where Nola “confronts” him as a ghost or physical manifestation of his thoughts or whatever just didn’t sit well with me. It wasn’t necessary for Chris to say his reasoning for what he did out loud. Allen did a decent job throughout the movie of setting this character up as the cold, calculating bastard that he is and I, at least, already knew his motivations. It didn’t need to be spelled out exactly and I think by doing so, Allen was showing that he didn’t trust his audience to “get it”. I have issues with film makes who think I’m stupid. This is why I dislike 80% of voiceovers in movies.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah — that scene could have worked had the movie overall and that scene in particular been more poetic, more philosophical, but when the entire film feels like it exists to prop up a few scattered philosophical moments, it doesn’t fly.

      Part of my problem was also that, from the start, I kept trying to read something more into the film. Particularly because of the impressionistic way the story was told — and, well, my distrust of any character JRM plays — I kept waiting for the revelation that he was scamming the Hewetts, or that Nola was, or that they were doing so together or would join forces for that purpose — but no, they were just ordinary idiots. Chris wasn’t enough of a cold, calculating bastard for me. He was a guy who blundered into a nice life, screwed it up, and decided the only way out was murder.

      If you want me on board with your protagonist’s decision to go on a killing spree, you have to make me unwillingly admire him first. Not so much, I’m afraid. I wanted to punch Chris’s teeth in.

  3. lanerobins

    Oh, good, I’m not alone. I loved Gormenghast, loved JRM in it, and then Thomas made me watch Bend it Like Beckham and I spent the entire movie unreasonably tense waiting for JRM to rip off the mask of “nice guy” and be a villain.

    I own the Tudors, but I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

    • Marie Brennan

      There’s one moment in Beckham, when it looks like Jess isn’t going to be able to play football anymore, and he leans in and says something to the effect of “Have a nice life,” and I’m flailing and going “GAAHHHHH IT’S STEERPIKE RUN AWAY!” Because there’s just something sinister in his manner there.

      Or at least I read sinisterity into it. Which is entirely unfair to him.

      The Tudors was very patchy; I watched the first season, but haven’t gone on. It being an HBO drama, it is very full of mostly pointless and not very sexy sex. So if you’re thinking “but naked JRM in nookie!,” be warned that it’s not terribly hot at all. (And also full of a weird mix of very nice historical accuracy and WTF inaccuracy. They can put the top floor back on the Hampton Court Palace gatehouse, but not put the clothes together right?)

      • lanerobins

        Yeah. In Beckham, I so kept waiting for him to turn around and sell the girls into slavery or something equally wacked out.

        Tudors–I knew it wasn’t going to be high art. I was just hoping for some campy fun.

        I think what weirds me out most about JRM as evil is that I got all the way through Velvet Goldmine thinking nothing much at all about him. I wonder what would happen if I watched it again, now that I’ve seen Gormenghast, if his character would be retroactively evil-natured.

  4. elizaeffect

    I seem to be constitutionally incapable of trusting Jonathan Rhys Meyers in any role he plays. I just keep seeing Steerpike.


    • Marie Brennan

      He plays sinister so very well.

      Which was part of my problem with The Tudors. Henry VIII should never be played by any man to whom one can apply the word “saturnine.”

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