Riding on approximately seven months of Cannes hype, Woody Allen’s Match Point still manages to impress. God knows why Dreamworks’ idiotic release strategy has played out in the manner it has (the film should have been released a couple of months ago, at least, both to more proficiently capitalize on its festival buzz and to avoid all the competition of the other “serious” and “adult” holiday releases that come about for Oscar time), but if it gets the proper exposure it could burst out of its niche audience easily. Fluid, trenchant, elegant storytelling, told with a devilish mastery that not only have we not seen from Woody Allen for quite some time but just about any filmmaker either, Match Point has been compared to Flaubert, to Barry Lyndon, and of course to his own Crimes and Misdemeanors, which of course refers back to Dostoyevsky, but let me add another reference to the hype: for me, this was Woody’s Chabrol film. Classical and class-dissecting (in broad, novelistic terms…certainly not new but compelling nonetheless, especially after Melinda and Melinda‘s wine-clutching nonchalance), with some surprisingly suspenseful subjective discomfort that would make even Hitchcock nod in delight, Woody’s film is, as we’ve been promised, one of the season’s delights.
And odd for Woody: all of his main players are young and gorgeous, both Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson, while perhaps not our greatest thespians, are utilized brilliantly, their bee-stung lips and increasingly frenetic brows caught up in a wonderfully melodramatic whirlwind of infidelity. It’s been called most un-Woody-like, but it seems to me like the same gift, different wrappings. Just as philosophical as any of his more chamber-like dramas yet with a strong genre grip and a propulsive forward motion, Match Point like his greatest, darkest works, surveys with the lightest of touches, a world borne out of incident and chance. Woody keeps returning to the word “luck,” but what he really means is “chaos.” In fact Match Point would match up nicely on a double bill with Herzog’s Grizzly Man…two species duelling it out for supremacy, both stories told with a clinical eye disrupted by violent passion.