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Film / Match Point

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Match Point: when Ping Pong turns nasty.

"The man who said 'I'd rather be lucky than good' saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose."
Chris Wilton

Match Point is a 2005 drama, written and directed by Woody Allen, and starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson, as well as Emily Mortimer, Brian Cox, and Matthew Goode.

Set in London, it follows Chris Wilton (Rhys Meyers), a young Irish tennis player who takes a job working at a club for the upper class. He quickly befriends Tom Hewett (Goode), and is introduced into their family, which includes his sister Chloe (Mortimer), who quickly takes a liking to Chris. The family patriarch gives Chris an entry point into the business world as his relationship with Chloe progresses, and everything looks great for Chris... until he meets Tom's fiancee Nola Rice (Johansson), a struggling American actress to whom he finds himself irresistibly attracted. Complications ensue.

A quasi-remake of Allen's own 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point ended a string of creative and financial disappointments for Allen that had lasted for the better part of a decade, and ushered in a new period in his filmography, with all but one of his subsequent movies set in Europe (as opposed to his previously famous devotion to New York, New York), and using younger, sexier casts than had previously been the general rule (marking the first of three collaborations between Allen and Johansson). It was both a critical success (earning Allen his first Academy Award nomination since 1997) and a huge box office hit, with a worldwide gross of over $85 million, nearly six times its budget, and one of Allen's best-performing films ever (even adjusted for inflation).

Allen ranks the film as one of the six best of his career (he regards the vast majority of his work to be failures).

This movie provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: If taken at face value, the movie ultimately imparts that it's better to be lucky than good.
  • Babies Ever After: Chris and, especially, Chloe are desparate to have children. They don't succeed in getting Chloe pregnant during most of the movie, but at the very end, Chloe has given birth to their baby and it's hinted they are already thinking about having another baby. The Trope is both played straight and subverted, because while Chloe is extremely happy with the baby, Chris seems to have mixed feelings when looking at the baby.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Chris gets away with murdering his mistress Nola and successfully hides his affair from his wife and in-laws, thereby keeping his cushy lifestyle and avoiding all consequences for his heinous actions.
  • Betty and Veronica: Chloe (Betty) and Nola (Veronica). Chris (Archie) is married to the former (whom he openly says he actually finds boring/annoying) and cheats with the latter (who is sexier). A very dark take on the trope, resolved with Archie murdering Veronica.
  • Book Ends: The film begins with a tennis ball being teetered on top of a net, and the direction it falls decided which player wins. The film ends wing a ring being teetered on top of a iron fence, and the direction it falls decides whether a man lives or dies of capital punishment.
  • Born Lucky: How Chris ultimately escapes justice.
  • Broken Bird: Nola already isn't happy at the beginning of the movie she doesn't come from a loving family, is struggling with her career and finances, her in-laws look down on her and she is dumped by Tom. Then she gets into an affair with the married Chris and her life turns even worse, as she wants/expects him to leave his wife for her but he doesn't, and she gets unintentionally pregnant with him (or at least she says so). By the end of the movie, she is desperate about her situation.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Nola eventually becomes 'determined' to have Chris for herself, and outright says that if he won't tell Chloe about their affair she will. Chris never expected this, and when he seemingly makes the decision to abandon Nola he is equally stunned when she catches and confronts him.
  • Downer Ending: Chris begins an affair with Nola, gets her pregnant, and then murders her to keep things quiet. He completely gets away with this, by pure luck. Meanwhile, his wife Chloe has his baby and doesn't have a clue even about his affair, let alone he murdered Nola, and his in-laws still love him.
  • Dreaming the Truth: The cop investigating Nola and her neighbour's murder, dreams about that Chris murdered Nola, which is what happened (but then the ring Chris stole is found on a deceased homeless man, so he and his partner dismiss Chris as a suspect).
  • Foil: Nola and Chris. Nola and Chris failed in their original ambitions, and are now pretty trophies for a rich family. The difference is that Chris is warmly accepted whereas Nola is firmly rejected.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening speech about everything depending on luck as to whether you'll win or lose is accompanied by the shot of tennis ball hitting the net and eventually falling to desired side. This foreshadows the later moment where the old woman's ring falls to the floor instead of into the river, thus allowing an addict to pick it up and take the fall for Nola's death. Also, Nola telling Chris that her new apartment is prone to burglary.
  • Gold Digger: Chris openly says he doesn't even really like Chloe but doesn't want to leave her because his very rich in-laws give him access to a luxurious lifestyle.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The casting, compared to what Allen had typically used before.
  • I Am Very British: Chris is Irish, but even though his actor is Irish, he speaks with a British accent and tries as hard as he can to be like his upper-class London in-laws and co-workers.
  • Ignored Epiphany: "You can learn to sweep the guilt under the rug and go on. Otherwise it overwhelms you."
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Chris murders Nola to maintain his cushy lifestyle.
  • Ironic Echo: The ring, like the tennis ball in the opening, lands on the edge, and the side it (randomly) falls on changes the Villain Protagonist's fate. The irony is that in a game, the ball falling on the previous side would cause the player to lose the game, but here, what is seemingly a major slip-up manages to get Chris off scott-free.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Cheating on your fiance once in an act of passion. Bad. Carrying on the affair even after getting married. Worse. Killing your pregnant mistress and an innocent landlady so she wouldn't disrupt your cozy life. Jesus Christ man!
  • Karma Houdini: Chris murders Nola, their unborn child (probably), and Nola's neighbour; he gets away with all of this scott free, due to luck.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Married couple Chloe and Chris try unsuccessfully for a baby for several months, whereas Nola gets pregnant after having unprotected sex with Chris once (she also mentions two previous unplanned pregnancies by Tom in the past that she aborted). Ironically, Chloe does eventually conceive, but only after Nola's death.
  • Offing the Offspring: When Chris murders Nola, he is fully aware that she's pregnant with his child. He even tries to excuse - and potentially lionize - his own actions by claiming that "to never have been born may be the greatest boon of all".
  • The Perfect Crime: What Chris tries to achieve And he ultimately does.
  • The Philosopher: Chris believes that sacrifices can be justifed if they're made for a higher goal and makes several references to scientific discovery and philosophers, namely Sophocles and Dostoevsky and also has a philosophy of his own.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Elanor Hewett a little drunk gives one to Nola where she tells her, at a certain point you ''know'' whether or not you are a good actor or not.
  • Recycled In Space: Crimes and Misdemeanors without the comedy which reflects Allen's regrets for not making that movie with only Martin Landau's storyline.
  • The Remake: The film is based on the Martin Landau plot of Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen having in the past said that he thought that film would have been stronger had it focused solely on Landau's character, omitting the second storyline that starred Allen himself. However, at least one critic disagreed, noting that whereas Landau's character Judah in the earlier film starts out feeling guilty about the bad things he does, and only later on has a Face–Heel Turn, Chris in Match Point is Evil All Along.
  • Romantic Rain: Chris and Nola first have sex in a wheat field in heavy rain.
  • Shout-Out: Chris is seen reading Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, whose title character greatly resembles him.
  • Straw Nihilist: The main character, who sees the world as completely amoral and random, and at one points admits that getting caught might actually at least demonstrate that there's some justice in the world. He isn't. The idea of turning himself in doesn't seem to have come up...
    Chris: It would be fitting if I were apprehended... and punished. At least there would be some small sign of justice - some small measure of hope for the possibility of meaning.
    Chris: Scientists are confirming more and more that all existence is here by blind chance. No purpose, no design.
    • That's also how he justifies killing his unborn baby:
    Chris: Sophocles said "to never have been born may be the greatest boon of all".
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Nola has no time to react when Chris blasts her with a shotgun. No exchange of quips or last words.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Played with. At first Chris' affair with Nola comes off as an depressed guy finding a new lease on life with a more interesting woman. And then it turns into a deconstruction when we start to see how emotionally neglectful towards his wife he is. And then it gets flat out subverted when Chris refuses to leave his wife for Nola because it would mean sacrificing his cushy lifestyle.
  • Tears of Remorse: Chris does feel some regret for his atrocious crime, and is visibly haunted by what he's done. Still, he claims that "You can learn to sweep the guilt under the rug and go on. Otherwise it overwhelms you." So he's still edging pretty close to monster territory.
  • Twist Ending: Arguably Nola's death and certainly Chris getting away with his crime.
  • Villain Protagonist: Chris starts out as merely manipulative. He gets worse.