Match Point (2005)

Rated R. Our ratings: V-4 ; L-5 ; S/N-6 . Running time: 2 hours 4 min.

Why do the wicked live on,
reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
8Their children are established in their presence,
and their offspring before their eyes.
9Their houses are safe from fear,
and no rod of God is upon them.
Job 21:7-8

Match Point

“Why it’s luck. Plain old fashioned luck,” Woody Allen apparenyl would say to Job’s anguished question. Behind the opening credits we see a tennis ball being batted back and forth, while an off-camera voice muses about tennis and luck. As he speaks about the ball hitting the net and bouncing straight up, the ball does exactly that. It can fall one forward, and thus over the net, or it can fall backward, the difference between winning and losing—matchpoint—all a matter of luck. How this works out amidst the complexities of human relationships is depicted in the rest of the film.

Filmed in posh London, rather than upscale Manhattan, Mr. Allen stays behind the camera this time, and his protagonist, former tennis star Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), is not a stand-in for the Woody persona. He is young and good looking, tired of the stress of the pro-tennis circuit where he knows that good as he is, he will not become one of the charmed super stars. From a poor Irish background, he has come to London seeking a job at an exclusive club where he tutors the wealthy in the game. While passing the time with the affable Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the latter is delighted to discover that his likable teacher shares his love of opera. Before you can whistle a Puccini love aria, Tom is sitting in the Hewett box admiring the gorgeous singing, and being admired by Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Soon the two are a couple, with family patriarch Alec Hewett (Brian Cox) not only approving, but, at Chloe’s urging, taking Chris into the family business and setting him up in a new position and spacious office.

All might have gone well—Chris really does have some creative ideas and a head for business, and he marries the dutiful Chloe—but for his being introduced to Tom Hewett’s fiancé Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson). An American who has come to England to pursue an acting career, she is far more glamorous than Chloe, and thus arouses Chris far more. At first she resists his cautious advances, but then—. The story soon travels into Crimes and Misdemeanors territory, minus that film’s comical “misdemeanor” story line. Also, writer Allen apparently has abandoned his speculations about God, settling for a universe in which blind luck rules. How this works out in the plot is fascinating, but, of course, very unsatisfying to those who believe in “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Lots to discuss in one of Woody Allen’s strongest films in some time.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) Is there a place for “luck” in your world view? What do you think of those theologians who have said that there is no place for “luck” in a Christian world view?

2) What do you think of Christ when you first see him? How does his induection into the so-called “good life” lead to his ruin? How could his meetings with Nola be compared to the fable in which Eve meets the serpent? (Though to be fair to Nola, would it be better to regard Chris as the snake?)

3) How does the harping of Eleanor Hewett (Penelope Wilton), Tom’s mother, affect Nola, and have far ranging consequences for her? Have you known instances of such harsh opinions and comments that affected another in unintended ways?

4) Where are Job and Allen similar in their view of events in the world, and where do they diverge?

5) For further reflection/study look at psalms 37 and 73. How do they and the book of Job show that faith provides no intellectual answer to the dilemma of unrequited justice and unrepentant evil, but that faith itself is all we are left with? (See the last chapters of the opetic section of Job.)

Match Point Rated R. Our ratings: V-4 ; L-5 ; S/N-6 . Running time: 2 hours 4 min.

Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?

8Their children are established in their presence, and their offspring before their eyes.

9Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.

Job 21:7-8

“Why it’s luck. Plain old fashioned luck,” Woody Allen apparenyl would say to Job’s anguished question. Behind the opening credits we see a tennis ball being batted back and forth, while an off-camera voice muses about tennis and luck. As he speaks about the ball hitting the net and bouncing straight up, the ball does exactly that. It can fall one forward, and thus over the net, or it can fall backward, the difference between winning and losing—matchpoint—all a matter of luck. How this works out amidst the complexities of human relationships is depicted in the rest of the film.

Filmed in posh London, rather than upscale Manhattan, Mr. Allen stays behind the camera this time, and his protagonist, former tennis star Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), is not a stand-in for the Woody persona. He is young and good looking, tired of the stress of the pro-tennis circuit where he knows that good as he is, he will not become one of the charmed super stars. From a poor Irish background, he has come to London seeking a job at an exclusive club where he tutors the wealthy in the game. While passing the time with the affable Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the latter is delighted to discover that his likable teacher shares his love of opera. Before you can whistle a Puccini love aria, Tom is sitting in the Hewett box admiring the gorgeous singing, and being admired by Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Soon the two are a couple, with family patriarch Alec Hewett (Brian Cox) not only approving, but, at Chloe’s urging, taking Chris into the family business and setting him up in a new position and spacious office.

All might have gone well—Chris really does have some creative ideas and a head for business, and he marries the dutiful Chloe—but for his being introduced to Tom Hewett’s fiancé Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson). An American who has come to England to pursue an acting career, she is far more glamorous than Chloe, and thus arouses Chris far more. At first she resists his cautious advances, but then—. The story soon travels into Crimes and Misdemeanors territory, minus that film’s comical “misdemeanor” story line. Also, writer Allen apparently has abandoned his speculations about God, settling for a universe in which blind luck rules. How this works out in the plot is fascinating, but, of course, very unsatisfying to those who believe in “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Lots to discuss in one of Woody Allen’s strongest films in some time.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) Is there a place for “luck” in your world view? What do you think of those theologians who have said that there is no place for “luck” in a Christian world view?

2) What do you think of Christ when you first see him? How does his induection into the so-called “good life” lead to his ruin? How could his meetings with Nola be compared to the fable in which Eve meets the serpent? (Though to be fair to Nola, would it be better to regard Chris as the snake?)

3) How does the harping of Eleanor Hewett (Penelope Wilton), Tom’s mother, affect Nola, and have far ranging consequences for her? Have you known instances of such harsh opinions and comments that affected another in unintended ways?

4) Where are Job and Allen similar in their view of events in the world, and where do they diverge?

5) For further reflection/study look at psalms 37 and 73. How do they and the book of Job show that faith provides no intellectual answer to the dilemma of unrequited justice and unrepentant evil, but that faith itself is all we are left with? (See the last chapters of the opetic section of Job.)