Sunday, April 25, 2010

Match Point: 4/5


The basic plot of Woody Allen's Match Point can be summarized thusly:

  1. Chris Wilton wants to have it all: a comfortable life and passionate love.
  2. So Chris marries into a super-rich London family and cuckolds his brother-in-law.
  3. But you can't always get what everything you want, and Chris picks the comfortable life.

It's not a particularly original story, but no story really is.  Many critics and viewers love or hate this movie based on the plot and its twists and tricks.  The plot is interesting, and the idea is interesting (even if not original), but the originality, and the quality, of Match Point lies in its execution.

Poetry is more than rhyming words.  Poetry uses the rhythms of speech to express a meaning deeper and more profound than the denotations and connotations of the words themselves.  Similarly, a film is more than moving pictures with a sound track.  A film uses the power of images, the power of sound, and the combined power of both to tell us something more profound than the plotpoints.

Let me give you an example.  For about the first 2/3 of Match Point, Nola wears spikey heels and sexy outfits while Chloe wears ballet flats and "cute" outfits.  The last time we see Nola, however, she is wearing low, almost kitten-style, heels and a knee-length, flared skirt.  The point: Nola has lost the sexual sway she held over Chris.*

*I'm not trying to say that kitten heels and a knee-length skirt can't be sexy (though I despise kitten heels).  I'm just trying to say that they connote much less sexually than do spikey heels and a tight or short skirt.

Similarly, in almost every scene with the whole family, Chris is apart somehow.  In one scene, he literally stands in a different room.  In another, he merely stands a few feet apart from a close quasi-group hug.  And in one of my favorites, he is physically in the group, but, while everybody else is wearing white, he is wearing black.  He is there, but he is not; he is a part of the family, but we know it is only because he makes Chloe happy.

Which may explain one of the most important idea in the movie.  In one scene, Chris is about to tell Chloe about his relationship with Nola.  He gets as far as admitting that he feels guilty, but can't go any further, can't give any details.  She accuses him of infidelity, but he denies it.  He turns the conversation to their travails getting pregnant.  Fast forward to the haunting penultimate scene: Chris tells the ghost of Nola, "I didn't know if I could do it.  It was hard.  But when the moment came, I could pull the trigger."  Put the two scenes together, and you have a striking juxtaposition: We had been led to believe Chris loved Nola more than Chloe, but he could only "pull the trigger" with Nola.  It was easier for him to kill Nola than to break Chloe's heart.

Which makes it a difficult question: Does he love Chloe too much to hurt her feelings, or does he love his comfortable life so much that he would kill to keep it?

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