Woody Allen’s big comeback? His best work in a decade? Genius rivaling “Annie Hall”!? What potent, absorbing, and thoroughly compelling version of “Match Point” were these critics watching? Look, it’s set in London, not New York! Listen, that crackling soundtrack is opera, not jazz! And wait a minute, there is no would-be Woody character in the script! These observations, while worthy of note as departure from typical Allen fodder, do not alone merit the glowing reviews that “Match Point” has received from so many.
By Adrienne LaFrance
After all, isn’t it imperative to judge a film standing on its own, and not merely in the context of the filmmaker’s other works? Yet many of the “Match Point” reviews simply point out its derivation from “Classic Woody” without delving more deeply into the film itself.
So what is it about Allen’s latest that has critics raving? Certainly not the weak tennis ball and net metaphor that painfully arises throughout the film (is Allen’s audience really so sophomoric that this could be described by some critics as profound?). It can’t be the shallow writing (If we’re going to make comparisons, I’ll take Allen’s semi-contrived, awkward-mouthful dialogue over a script of sentiments as empty as the characters who utter them any day). How about the lack of character development that obliterates the possibility of genuine suspense in what has been categorized a dramatic thriller? Instead of building slowly (and effectively) to a climax, the only tense moments in “Match Point” erupt suddenly (and predictably) before dissipating back into the overwhelming superficiality on which the rest of the film lies loosely unraveled.
And it’s not as though the subject matter is new and exciting to Allen or his fans. Infidelity and murder are familiar topics, made least interesting of all in “Match Point.” So what am I missing here? A film that earned four Golden Globe nominations (with plenty of Oscar-related whispers) and street buzz as one of Allen’s best and most original cannot simply be a product of nostalgic fans paying more attention to the man who made the film than the film he made. So, what went over my head?