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January 2005


By Melissa Walters



Distributor: Dreamworks SKG
Director: Woody Allen
Producers: Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley and Lucy Darwin
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton, James Nesbit





Chris Hinton (Jonathan Rhys Myers), an Irishman down on his luck but determined to change it, appears at a London country club where he uses his skills as a former pro tennis player to access the world of the British elite.

Armed with a philosophy that fate is necessarily determined by hard work but more so by chance, Chris wastes no time positioning himself to befriend wealthy tennis student, Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), whose sweet English sister, Chloe Hewett (Emily Mortimer), immediately becomes smitten with Chris.

As luck would have it, notwithstanding his engagement to Chloe, Chris cannot resist the lure of Tomıs fiancé, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), a struggling American actress. With an unexpected sense of conscience, Nola is reluctant to have an affair with her future brother-in-law but succumbs in a moment of weakness. The affair quickly ends when Tom leaves Nola for another and heartbroken Nola returns to America.

Chris manipulates every advantage as the son-in-law of Alec Hewett (Brian Cox) to rise in the ranks of business and becomes a well heeled member of British society. However, he never loses his passion for Nola. So when enroute to meet his wife at an art exhibit he sees Nola from afar, he pursues her and convinces her to resume their affair.

This film, a typical Allen tale regarding moral conflict, does manage to distinguish itself. The usual New York City set was exchanged for its European equivalent; the city of London. Allen captures its old world charm, with locations that include the Royal Opera House and the Blackfriars Bridge. Coupled with modern locations including the Gherkin building (which won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize) and the Millennium Bridge (which connects the City of London at St. Paul's Cathedral with the Tate Modern Gallery at Bankside) the combination of old and new provides an appropriate backdrop for the tale of human quandry that repeats itself. Also befitting the tale is the musical score, where Allenıs typical jazz is substituted by opera, a genre that is sensual, emotional and appropriate given the filmıs competing themes of ambition, love and lust.

Rhys Myers, recently seen in ³Alexander² and ³Vanity Fair², provides yet another convincing performance- this time as an opportunistic sociopath. Johansson delivers another in depth performance, worthy of her BAFTA Best Actress Award winning performance in ³Lost in Translation².

While not likely to follow ³Annie Hall² and earn Allen an Academy Award for Best Picture, with a supporting cast including 2003 Independent Spirit Award winner Mortimer (³Lovely and Amazing²), Cox (³The Bourne Identity² and ³The Bourne Supremacy²) and British actors Goode (³Chasing Liberty²) and Penelope Wilton (³³Pride & Prejudice²) Woody Allenıs Matchpoint does deliver a tale that is entertaining and successful.