WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
As Yogi Berra probably never said: It’s deja vu all over again. In this case, Woody Allen’s new London-based “Match Point” will inevitably arch eyebrows among Woody addicts and lead to the question: Haven’t I seen this before?
In fact, I have – too many times. It is the same shtick, but with different accents and a different location. In fact, the recycling here goes beyond being merely ecological. It is downright larcenous for Woody to rewrap the same stuff and try to sell it anew over and over and over and over.
Instead of the usual Woody caper of a Brooklyn Jew trying to ingratiate himself with the Upper East Side WASPs, this time it is the Irish tennis pro getting in with the English aristocracy. We know these people are aristocrats because they live in palaces, go to the opera once a week, keep a full stable full of horses and drink champagne like it was tap water. The young Irishman (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, very pretty but a terrible actor) manages to get involved with the single sister of one of his tennis students. The family likes this kid from Dublin, and faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” the lad trades in his tennis shorts for an executive job at Papa Moneybags’ corporation (doing what is not certain – there is talk of Japanese deals and contracts, but no one is clear what kind of business is being transacted).
But alas, there is a fly in the ointment. And a gorgeous fly at that: blonde Scarlett Johansson as an American would-be actress who is the girlfriend of the Irish guy’s new brother-in-law. Being the prettiest people in the movie, Rhys Meyers and Johanssen get into the groove. Theirs is not the proper British style of lovemaking: they go out it with blindfolds and hot oil rubdowns. But when she gets pregnant, he pulls out the subplot from “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and makes sure she exits the scene permanently.
“Crimes and Misdemeanors”? Yes, Woody has literally stolen from himself by taking that superior film’s plotline and grafting in here, with absurd results. Crime does pay, by the way, thanks to the blundering London police force (who seem to have studied law enforcement by watching Nigel Bruce’s performances as Doctor Watson). But unlike that earlier movie, there is no moral ambiguity to the heinous actions. Or even the hint of an intelligent debate on good versus evil. There are just a pair of bitter ghosts who complain about being killed (I kid you not!).
As usual, Woody has major problems hiding his chronic misogyny. His women are either clingy whiners, aggressive whores or blithering idiots. Maybe someone needs to buy Woody a calendar. This far into the 21st century, it is nothing short of embarrassing to see women depicted in such a weird and unflattering manner.
“Match Point” was shot in London, but this is clearly a tourist’s London (doesn’t everyone there have a home with a view of Parliament?). I assume British audiences will laugh at this much the way they laughed at “Mrs. Miniver” or any old-time Hollywood movie that tries to approximate the look of London without ever getting a hint of its pulse, let alone its soul.
If this review is a bit harsh, it is because Woody Allen can do better. Or maybe he can’t do better anymore? If his recent output is any indication, it might be time for him to call it a career.