One of us, one of us
Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005)
By Celestino Deleyto
Match Point starts as a remake of A Place in the Sun (1951), itself an adaptation of Theodore Dreisers An American Tragedy, and half way through its narrative, before the spectator has had time to realise, it has become a remake of Allens earlier Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), sharing with both and with other Allen films, their concern with the existence (or not) of a moral universe. Repeating a thematic strand of
There is also a great deal of irony in the presentation of the English upper-class family. British reviewers and spectators predictably objected to various aspects of Allens first go at setting one of his films in England, but hard to believe though it may seem, the New York director succeeds at offering a chilling social portrayal of this class from the outsiders perspective. Allen may have got some of the details wrong precisely because of his lack of experience of this social group but his is the perspective of the great majority, which can only ever look at this privileged elite and interpret it and suffer it from the outside. In this sense, neither the Irish working-class upstart protagonist Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) nor, much less, his down-on-her-luck aspiring actress lover Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) can dream of even competing with a group of characters who, at first sight, seem the innocent victims of their machinations, but eventually prove to be much more rotten morally, perhaps not individually but certainly as a class. Allen and his magnificent ensemble of British actors realise and perfectly convey that the more polite, generous and friendly that they seem to be the more arrogant, ruthless and unassailable they become. Chriss final tragedy may lie less in what he has done than in having become part of a family which will always consider him inferior and an outsider no matter how much they appear to welcome and support him.
The film seems to argue that the difference between Chris's and Nolas attitudes towards the Hewetts is related to their nationalities. Irish-born Chris has been more familiar with the outsiders perspective on the upper-classes and his fascination with them has become part of his identity. U.S. American Nola, on the other hand, is no Jamesian character and has been too far away from them to appreciate them much more than as a tourist attraction. But this is also her final tragedy: her failure to understand to what extent Chris can be driven by a fascination she cannot understand and much less share. Rhys Meyers and Johanssons performances convey not only the urgency and power of sexual desire but, more suggestively, especially for a Woody Allen movie, how that power is nothing compared to the power of social class, especially in Britain. Such seasoned analysts of social class in Britain as Kenneth Loach, Stephen Frears or Mike Leigh have every reason to be jealous.