“The man who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.” –Chris Wilton
I’ve seen a couple of Woody Allen movies. All of them have been comedies. Match Point is not a comedy but instead a brilliant, well-paced psychological thriller in which luck is required to ascend the social ladder instead of morals.
Although the film was only set in London for financial reasons (New York is expensive), the tennis courts, stately mansions, well-manicured lawns all displayed as silent marvels under an overcast sky, acts as the perfect pensive backdrop for the operatic events that are about to unfold.
Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a retired pro tennis player who moves to London to be a tennis coach for well-to-do families. He meets Tom Hewitt, a charming and wealthy womanizer, who invites him to the opera. That’s when Chris meets Tom’s sister Chloe who–after stealing one or two furtive glances at Chris in the darkness of the theater– develops a crush on him. She’s a bit chatty but sweet and they decide to marry. However Chris finds himself in trouble when he meets Nola, the American actress, who also happens to be Tom’s fiancée.
He can’t help but be drawn to her. They are both outsiders in the sense that they aren’t wealthy and failed to have professional success in their respective fields. And when they embark on an affair Chris finds it more and more difficult to keep track of his lies, resulting in an ending that might shock some audience members.
I just want to mention that this movie isn’t focused on two people trying to make their relationship work, but instead concentrates on the actions of someone who seems to have no moral compass whatsoever. As a character study, it’s great. Meyers plays Chris so well it’s hard to find any fault with his performance. Chris is quiet and respectful when he’s faced with his in-laws, easily giving into Chloe’s desires to have a baby, but at times will also reveal an extremely powerful and magnetic personality especially when he’s with Nola. The way he’s able to shift between these two personalities is completely disturbing and speaks to how sinister this protagonist really is. He’s competitive and plays an aggressive game. A very aggressive game.
Some people might have issues with the A Place in the Sun-esque ending, but I was engrossed all the way through. According to Chris, life is dependent on luck, and boy, is he a lucky guy.
Reminded me of: American Psycho (2000), A Place in the Sun (1951), Vertigo (1958)
[Cover photo via movieretrospect]
[Photo via developed society]