Woody Allen is Back... With the Worst Movie of the Year
For six years now, critics and audiences have been trying to come to terms with a sad and uncomfortable truth: Woody Allen is finished. The man who made some of the best American comedies of the late twentieth century has nothing to left to say in the twenty-first. It was a long, steep way down from the heights of "Annie Hall" to "Curse of the Jade Scorpion," from the sublime "Manhattan" to the abysmal "Hollywood Ending." So it's no wonder that adoring fans defend Allen's increasingly awful output every step of the way. They simply refuse to believe that the neurotic New York auteur hasn't made a decent movie this millennium yet.
And so it has become a predictable ritual: with every new release, the "advance buzz" is "great" and our hopes are stoked that "this one" marks Woody's return to form! Shot entirely in London, "Match Point" was a smash at Cannes! The new location liberated Woody from his creative rut! (And please forget that we said exactly the same thing about the last five duds.)
If you'll excuse my French: it's all rubbish. "Match Point" is, shot for shot, the worst movie I have seen all year
, an uninspired, sloppy rehash of any number of noir
morality tales, a mangled carbon copy of a long line of superior films. To praise this cobbled-together mess in the same breath with Allen's classic films is to insult his past greatness. The new setting--filthy rich upper class London instead of ludicrously expensive upper class New York--still amounts to a fantasy world of the wealthy. As for the jokes... there are no jokes.
Instead, we get ill-conceived cardboard characters, none of them likable, who act out a preordained plot without any concern for their own motivations or the laws of plausibility and continuity. Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) starts out as an affable former tennis pro who becomes a coach for the upper crust, but half an hour into the film, after romancing the wealthy Chloe Hewitt (Emily Mortimer), he heads straight into the business world, where he morphs from mildly sympathetic social climber to homicidal monster, equally driven by lust and ambition--apparently at random. He's too stupid to use contraceptives with his mistress (Scarlett Johansson), but smart enough to dupe Chloe into marriage.
Chloe starts out lively and good natured but swiftly turns into the grating caricature of a baby-obsessed nag. Scarlett Johansson's talents are wasted as hopeful and headstrong American actress who, halfway through the film, mutates into a shrill, dependent adulteress who doesn't know how to make a phone call without male help. In the heat of passion, her shirt gets torn off her ample breasts, and in embarrassingly obvious scenes, she whines the worst lines of her budding career. (Yes, that does include the Jerry Bruckheimer flop "The Island.")
Other characters drop by to fulfill certain plot requirements and disappear altogether, or make inexplicable entrances ten minutes before the film is over--after 124 interminable minutes. Scenes drag on way past the time they served their purpose, and others are altogether pointless. Cliches, plot holes and major improbabilities multiply, making "Match Point" a veritable encyclopedia of poor scriptwriting, and it is hard to escape the suspicion that Woody Allen has no clue how real people think or act.