Another rehash or creative resurgence?

Why did Match Point hit with audiences?


-For awhile it seemed like critics loved to bash Woody's new film every year. It became more of a creative exercise on how to find new ways to share their distain for his newest release. Yet, many of these critics were hardcore Woody fans at heart. Their relationship with Woody, like in any marriage, had it's ups and downs. But the bad times started to add up, hope was drifting away and some had given up hope of ever seeing another good Woody Allen picture. Maybe some coped by exaggerating their dislike of Woody's latest and not-so-greatest. So the question is, "Were audiences and critics so beaten down, so vulnerable, so in need of a good time, they latched on to Match Point undeservedly?" [WAW]


-Crackling with sexual energy and casual deceit, Match Point is the most alive thing Allen’s done in a long time—blood courses underneath its surface and literally spills out. Anomalous though it may seem, Match Point actually bears similarities to his previous films. Like other Allen movies, it’s a compendium of borrowings from other works. An American Tragedy, Dostoevsky, Strindberg, and his own Crimes and Misdemeanors are crucial texts from which Allen cobbles the scenario. Far from being emptily derivative—a sin his weaker films commit—Match Point’s influences hang together and deepen the movie. [10]


-Nathan Rabin for the A.V. Room wrote, "I concede that as an aesthetic exercise Match Point is skillful but without any kind of emotional investment that's all it was to me: an empty aesthetic exercise. For me Match Point is wholly lacking in feeling: it aspires to the sweaty existential dread of Hitchcock or classic film noir but it's too removed, too distant, too damn classy to achieve it. And the scene with the accusing ghosts and the reverent quoting of philosophy positively reek of self-parody. Match Point is certainly a step forward for Allen but I still find it fundamentally unsatisfying." [11]


-A.O. Scott for the New York Times wrote, "Mr. Allen's accomplishment here is to fool his audience, or at least to misdirect us, with a tale whose gilded surface disguises the darkness beneath. His guile - another name for it is art - keeps the story moving with the fleet momentum of a well-made play. Comparisons to "Crimes and Misdemeanors" are inevitable, since the themes and some elements of plot are similar, but the philosophical baggage in "Match Point" is more tightly and discreetly packed. There are few occasions for speech-making, and none of the desperate, self-conscious one-liners that have become, in Mr. Allen's recent movies, more tics than shtick. Nor is there an obvious surrogate for the director among the youthful, mostly British and altogether splendid cast. If you walked in after the opening titles, it might take you a while to guess who made this picture." [13]


-Terry Hearn for WhatCulture! wrote, "For a director who is often incorrectly thought of as churning out the same film every year, ‘Match Point’ was a huge change of direction for Woody Allen. He enjoys writing the occasional darker drama in between his more expected comedy films, but these often come in the tone of Allen’s cinematic idol, Ingmar Bergman. In the case of ‘Match Point’ Allen took on the style of another great director, Hitchcock, resulting in the darkest and most dangerous film he had made since ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ but also made it feel more immediate and appealing to the contemporary audience. While no single character is a hero, there is also no single villain. In fact, the film’s cynicism comes from a lack of a moral compass. ’Match Point’ deserves to be held with Allen’s best work. It shows another string to his bow. It is smart, sexy and feels fresh and completely modern." [16]

-Runtime: 124 minutes

-Released on January 20, 2006 (wide)

-Production Company: BBC Films

-Distributor: DreamWorks

-Rated R

-Budget: $15 million [1]

-Gross: $23 million [1] $85.3 Million worldwide [3]

-Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

"Match Point" Screening Companion



-The film was originally set in the Hamptons, a wealthy enclave in New York, but transferred to London when Allen found financing for the film there. [3]


-The film was partly funded by BBC Films, which required that he make the film in the UK with largely local cast and crew. In an interview with The Guardian, Allen explained that he is allowed "the same kind of creative liberal attitude that I'm used to", in London. He complained that the American studio system is strong again, and not interested in making small films — "They only want these $100 million pictures that make $500m." [4]


-Woody Allen: "That's why I'm happy to work in London, because I'm right back in the same kind of liberal creative attitude that I'm used to." [4]


-Filming took place in London in the summer of 2004 over a seven-week schedule. [4]


-Because it was filmed in Britain, Woody Allen had to have a certain percentage of British cast and crew. Apparently he made his quota before casting Kate Winslet. After she backed out to spend more time with her family, Allen cast American Scarlett Johansson. [1] According to Allen, [the re-write] "..was not a problem...It took about an hour." [4]


-The film's soundtrack consists almost entirely of pre-World War I 78 rpm recordings of opera arias sung by the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. This bold use, despite his variety of musical styles, constitutes a first for Allen. Opera has been used before in his work as an indicator of social class, such as in Husbands and Wives (1992). In Match Point the arias and opera extracts make an ironic commentary on the actions of the characters and sometimes foreshadow developments in the movie's narrative. Furthermore, given Wilton's status as an introvert and opera enthusiast himself, the accompaniment emphasises his detachment from his crime. [5]


-Woody Allen: "Match Point is one of my A-films. It's arguably maybe the best film that I've made. This is strictly accidental, it just happened to come out right. You know, I try to make them all good, but some come out and some don't. With this one everything seemed to come out right. The actors fell in, the photography fell in and the story clicked. I caught a lot of breaks. It turned out to be one of the luckiest experiences I've ever had. Every little break that we needed at every little turning point went right!" [6]


Woody's Modern Era


-Owen Gleiberman  for Entertainment Weekly wrote, "To call Match Point Woody Allen's comeback would be an understatement - it's the most vital return to form for any director since Robert Altman made The Player."


-Immediately after crowing that New York was “a great movie town . . . a great place to come and work and make your movies” at the 2002 Oscars, Allen saw his bad New York films Melinda and Melinda, Anything Else, and Hollywood Ending all bomb—even in the city. By 2004, he was humbled to discover that he couldn’t find money to film Match Point here, at least not without serious concessions. Allen, who once said, “There are only two things that you can control in life: art and masturbation,” was suddenly down to one. [7]


-For anyone who has followed Woody's entire career, it would seem impossible to not see Match Point as a resurgence in his creative spark. After going through a decent sting of films in the 90s and the mix bag of the 2000s, it's hard to get excited or even remember many details from any of them. Everyone has a favorite from the dozen films he made from that period, but would it be a crime against cinema history if any of them completely disappeared forever? [WAW]


-Match Point was a jump start to a stalled career. Few believed Woody had another masterpiece left in him in 2004. Some see Match Point as one of Woody's best. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But there is something about the films Woody made post-Match Point that all have a little something extra special about them. Within the 8 years it's been since Match Point, Woody has created 3 of his best films he made since the mid 80s: Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. Those three films alone prove that Woody has more gas in the tank than people ever though Woody had left in him. It's much easier to believe Woody has another Annie Hall in him now, than if someone asked you that 5, 10, 20 years ago.[WAW]



-"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." [From Match Point's opening]


Woody Allen: "[Match Point] expresses my philosophy to a T. I’ve always been a huge believer in luck. I think that people hate to admit the enormous part that luck plays in life because it means that much of life is out of our control. You’re always running into people who say, “I make my own luck.” And hard work, of course, is important. But in the end you have to have a lot of luck, in your relationships, in your career, with your health, and a million different ways that render all the searching and hard work and practicing and praying and anything else you care to do to in some way influence your life – render it slightly meaningless. That’s always been a great philosophy of mine." [9]


-...If comfort is much more valuable than passion and luck than goodness, then why are we still so fascinated by these things? Why does Nola Rice honestly expect Chris to “do the right thing” because his lust for her is so strong? And why does Angelica Houston’s Delores Paley [from Crimes and Misdemeanors] demand validation from Judah that their passion meant something, awkwardly seeking to confront his wife because she feels implicit “promises were made?” While I’m sure there are exceptions, it does seem that most occidental fantasies center around the karmic “be good-get rewarded” clauses that religion, our parents, and Hollywood seem to offer us. But do we really believe in a just world despite all evidence to the contrary? Or is it just a function of the human condition to want what’s mutually exclusive? Yet Allen’s Match Point seems reluctant to answer these questions for us—forcing us to consider for ourselves what is most valuable—that is, if we are lucky enough to have the leisure time to figure all this stuff out. [12]


-Woody Allen: "I’m very lucky, for many reasons. I was lucky to have a talent, because I was not really very good in school and I don’t know what I would have done. I had a good family growing up, and my parents lived to very ripe old ages. When I first started in show business, and films especially, all the things written about tended to overlook my faults and emphasized my strengths. I played baseball with Willie Mays at Dodger Stadium during a celebrity game, I’ve played jazz in New Orleans clubs, I’ve dined at the White House and traveled all over the world. I’ve done all those things that I could ever have imagined doing in my life." [14]



-At 124 minutes, Woody Allen's longest film to date. [1]


-Woody Allen's first film shot entirely in Britain. [1]


-Dreamworks picked up North American rights for a reported $4 million. [15]


-According to Eric Lax's book, this movie is one of Woody Allen's favorite films which are (in order): Match Point, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, and Manhattan Murder Mystery. [1]


-The film was shown out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. [1]

-The painting of a girl with a red balloon on the wall that Chris walks along was done by Banksy, a graffiti artist from Bristol. [1]


-Woody Allen's first film in 19 years to make a profit in America. The last was Hannah and Her Sisters. [1]


-The haunting recording used several times in the soundtrack, including over the opening and closing credits, is the Enrico Caruso 78 rpm of "Una furtiva lagrima" ("A furtive tear"), from Gaetano Donizetti's opera "L'Elisir d'Amore" ("The Elixir of Love"). [1]

Critical Reception - The US Perspective


-Roger Ebert in his 4 Star review of Match Point wrote, "One reason for the fascination of Woody Allen's "Match Point" is that each and every character is rotten. This is a thriller not about good versus evil, but about various species of evil engaged in a struggle for survival of the fittest -- or, as the movie makes clear, the luckiest...When "Match Point" premiered at Cannes, the critics agreed it was "not a typical Woody Allen film." This assumes there is such a thing. Allen has worked in a broad range of genres and has struck a lot of different notes, although often he uses a Woody Figure (preferably played by himself) as the hero. "Match Point" contains no one like Woody Allen; is his first film set in London; is constructed with a devious clockwork plot that would distinguish a film noir, and causes us to identify with some bad people. "Match Point," which deserves to be ranked with Allen's "Annie Hall," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Manhattan," "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and "Everyone Says I Love You," has a terrible fascination that lasts all the way through."


-Every Woody Allen Movie website critic wrote, " the context of Allen’s ‘00s comedies, it is a towering achievement. It’s a real film, after so many wispy diversions, and the first movie since Sweet and Lowdown I feel like I can praise without having to go on the defensive. After spending half a decade sleep-walking through the same tropes, Match Point is fresh and different, and, best of all, was clearly made with effort and a sense of purpose." [2]


-A.O. Scott wrote in an article prior to Match Point's release, "What passes between Chris and Nola is not only desire, but also recognition, which makes their connection especially volatile. As their affair advances, Ms. Johansson and Mr. Rhys-Meyers manage some of the best acting seen in a Woody Allen movie in a long time, escaping the archness and emotional disconnection that his writing often imposes. It is possible to identify with both of them - and to feel an empathetic twinge as they are ensnared in the consequences of their own heedlessness - without entirely liking either one. But it is the film's brisk, chilly precision that makes it so bracingly pleasurable. The gloom of random, meaningless existence has rarely been so much fun, and Mr. Allen's bite has never been so sharp, or so deep. A movie this good is no laughing matter. [Match Point is Allen's most] "satisfying film in more than a decade." [13]


- Empire magazine gave the film four stars from five, calling it Allen's best of his last half a dozen films and recommended it even to those who are not fans of the director.


Peter Travers for Rolling Stone wrote, "Allen evokes Dostoevsky and Dreiser, but don't expect justice from a shocker ending that manages to be devilishly clever and morally repugnant. It's been a long time since a Woody Allen film sparked juicy debate. Savor it."


-In Logan's Hill's article for New York Magazine titled: The Defector: Is Match Point Woody's comeback, or did he just get luck? he states, "But I fear we’re less likely to end up remembering Match Point as Woody’s comeback than honoring it as his last well-made film. The film’s fresh locale disguises the fact that Woody is trotting out the same tired old tropes: a man caught between another one of Woody’s flighty young bad girls and another one of Woody’s good boring wives. He subs the Thames for the East River, Verdi for Gershwin—and just how different is this movie from Crimes and Misdemeanors after all?" [7]


-Hill continues, "Still, Woody’s London sojourn allows us to love him again, at least for a while. It’s given him new actors to play with, and the excuse to write—finally—a male lead who doesn’t sound just like him, if only because he has a British accent. What a relief it is, for the first time in years, to be able to relax and enjoy a Woody Allen film. Maybe we both just needed some time apart." [7]


-Allen was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. [3]


-77% Rotten Tomatoes rating

Critical Reception - The British Perspective


-Critics in the United States praised the film and its British setting, and welcomed it as a return to form for Allen. In contrast, reviewers from the United Kingdom treated Match Point less favorably, finding fault with the locations and, especially, the idiom of the dialogue. [3]


-Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian wrote, "The buzz from the American press about Match Point is almost intoxicating. Can it really be true that our country, our capital city, and the film production company created by our national broadcaster has revitalized the career of one of America's greatest film-makers? In a word, no. Or in seven words: I'm really sorry about this, but no. For its premiere at Cannes last year and its UK release now, Match Point had me sitting in the audience clenching my fists as the lights went down and wishing and yearning for this one to be the big Woody Allen comeback movie, absolutely willing it to happen...But the problem with Match Point is that the dialogue is composed in a kind of Posh English that Allen seems to have learned from a Berlitz handbook." [7]


-Philip French, writing in The Observer, criticised Allen's grasp of English idiom and the film's lack of humour, especially considering that two comic actors from the UK were cast in minor roles. Also, he called the dialogue "rather lumbering" and said that "the lexicons of neither the City financier nor the London constable are used convincingly."


-Reviewing for the BBC's website, Andy Jacobs awarded the film four stars from five, and called it Allen's best film since Deconstructing Harry (1997). He also criticized some other British reviewers whose dislike, Jacobs claims, was due to the fact that Allen presented an agreeable portrait of middle class life in London. He also praised the performances by Rhys Meyers and Johansson.

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-Don’t call it a comeback—not yet anyway. Had he disappeared for a while to return with Match Point, Woody Allen would well have deserved a wholehearted embrace. But he’s been here this whole time, hanging around like an aging fighter unaware of the embarrassing figure he cut, unheeding of the calls to stay down. Such was the ignominious deterioration of a once-proud filmography that I had given up on Allen around the turn of the century. An unexpected gift, Match Point doesn’t quite belong in his formidable canon, but it comes within hailing distance. Is this a return to form, or merely a hiccup in the protracted decline? [10]


-While its conviction is Match Point’s best attribute, its freshness and originality, by Woody Allen standards, are appreciated as well. You could probably tell from a single line of dialogue or still image that Anything Else or Melinda and Melinda were Woody Allen movies, but with Match Point, Allen’s calling cards are relegated to the film’s details and subtext. There are no writers, no stammering joke-tellers, no one-liners, and no jazz. Most dramatically of all, Allen has shifted his focus down a generation, and moved the action to London. [2]