Tennis pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is befriended by a young toff, Tom Hewitt (Matthew Goode) and begins to date his sister (Emily Mortimer). She's smart and nice, not very exciting but a key to a whole new social stata. When Chris meets Tom's fiancée Nola (Scarlett Johansson) his eyes practically pop out of his skull. If he could have Nola and the new upper crust lifestyle to which he rapidly becomes accustomed, then he would truly have it all. But if there's to be a choice between passion and luxury, what would he do then?
A Woody Allen movie for people who don't like Woody Allen (and these days, who does?), Match Point dispenses with comedy altogether, replaces jazz with opera, and crosses the Atlantic for pastures new (or at any rate, London and the Home Counties). It's the first Allen picture which doesn't look like a Woody Allen picture (the unobtrusively handsome cinematography is by Remi Adefarasin), even if the story replays the ethical maundering of Crimes and Misdemeanors in a sexier key, with bits and bobs of Dreiser and Dostoievski thrown in. Chris even hefts around a study aid to Crimes and Misdemeanors to make sure we understand the gravitas of his existential predicament.
For all its philosophical deliberation the movie is really just a B-movie suspense story dressed up in chic clothing. Not that I'm against B-movie suspense pictures, but the pretension is laid on a bit thick, and the rhapsodic reviews this movie received in North America are hard to comprehend. In Britain the critics were far more skeptical, mostly because in trying to do for London what he did for Manhattan Allen ends up looking like he just stepped off the boat. Enough already with the Gherkin and the London Eye!
I suspect the Brit crits were uncomfortable with the portrait of a complacently filthy rich upper class family too - though both their generosity and their snobbery seemed to me quite credible. It's true the characters are clichés, but I've met plenty just like 'em. Which is more than can be said for several scenes involving the old bill (Ewan Bremner and James Nesbitt), quite possibly the duffest scenes Allen's ever written. The ease with which Chris can park right outside Tate Modern is also a bit of a stretch. And the fact that he keeps bumping into the supposedly skint Nola shopping in Bond Street.
The performances are okay, but the film would have had more fire if you could believe Chris and Nola were crazy about each other - and Scarlett Johansson can't make sense of the way the initially self-assured Nola slumps into a completely different person when the plot demands it.