In the absence of social media and in the time of flip phones and cigarettes, Match Point still feels strangely modern. Woody Allen’s film is a high stakes drama that stands the test of time. Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) has dropped out of professional tennis and is in search of a new life. A chance encounter with femme fatale Nola (Scarlett Johansson) at his fiancée’s upper class gathering seals his fate. “Are you my next victim?” she says perhaps sensing something beyond their mutual attraction and a shared future. But nothing will prepare her for this liaison.
Just when Chris’s repeated advances amount to nothing, a dramatic frolic in the rain sodden paddock seals the deal. The scene is perhaps more symbolic then the slow-mo net call at the beginning of the film. Nola is a struggling American actress and like Chris needs stability in her life. They are similar in many ways. When Nola becomes pregnant she rightfully demands Chris address the situation. Feeling trapped (and now wedded to Chloe played by Emily Mortimer) he back-flips and denies her pleas deciding to go down the shocking road of staging a double murder. The sense of inevitability is sobering but does not soften this high octane crime thriller. What starts out as a tasteful, romantic first act is followed by a terrifying second. This is a film with the style and feel of a Hitchcock classic. The soundtrack is especially effective. The crackly old-world opera gives the story a tragic feel veiled in lo-fi shellac and a sense of inevitability.
Rhys-Meyers is persuasive and has a natural gift to get inside the tormented personality of a killer. He can appear polite and charming while wrestling contrary emotions. You are drawn into the personality that resorts to such desperate measures. Scarlett Johansson’s Nola reveals a troubling personality that in many ways is as unsettling as Rhys’s Chris. Relaxed and untroubled and then increasingly distraught as Chris emotionally withdraws, Johansson’s nuanced performance is memorable. Match Point is a classic.
Match Point, 2005
Screenplay Woody Allen
Director Woody Allen
Nola Rice Scarlett Johansson
Chris Wilton Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
Chloe Hewett Emily Mortimer
Tom Hewett Matthew Goode