Heroes of the Zeroes: Match Point
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
In Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” there was neither a Big Apple fetish nor a nebbish appearance by the man himself or an arms-flailing stand-in.
This lean, mean and surprisingly sultry 2005 thriller about fate, luck, greed and guilt was Allen’s best film since 1995’s “Mighty Aphrodite.” Plus, it included a vintage-Allen metaphor of a tennis ball bobbling on a net that later, in a great gotcha scene, became a potentially damning motif.
Yes, the notion of Woody Allen tackling eroticism sounds punishable by permanent blindness. And while there’s plenty of hot sex between failed tennis pro Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and voluptuous struggling actress Nola (Scarlett Johansson), it’s an inescapable trap that’s more somber than sordid.
Chris and Nola are pretty-face charmers with well-rehearsed imitations of initiative, used to sailing through windows of opportunity. But their wiles have run out — note Chris’s staircase glide shifting to a sulk in the matter of a step — and they fill that uncertainty with unbridled, ill-advised lust.
Their London affair starts as Nola is engaged to British playboy Tom (Matthew Goode) and continues after Chris marries Chloe (Emily Mortimer), Tom’s sister.
Chris admires “Crime and Punishment,” and those drawn to destructive fictions are bound to dabble in them eventually, as Chris and Nola’s tryst, along with their self-preservation instincts, carry brutal ramifications. (Pity not Tom and Chloe, for they are enablers in their own way.)
“Match Point” found Allen in atypically ravenous revelry — a joyously morbid, masterful morality play about being led into temptation.