Woody Allen revisits familiar themes in an unfamiliar setting in Match Point, which sees the veteran writer/director shoot London as lovingly as his native New York. Dismissed by some peculiarly class-obsessed critics because it makes the British capital look, well, nice, it is easily Allen's best film since Deconstructing Harry in 1997. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers stars as an ex-tennis pro who marries into Emily Mortimer's filthy rich family but is undone by his attraction to Scarlett Johansson's failing actress.
Rhys-Meyers - an underrated actor - takes time to warm to Woody's ways, but ultimately delivers a subtle, affecting portrait of a man torn between two women and ways of life (he also avoids the trap of most Allen stars: that of impersonating Woody Allen). Johansson gives substance and charisma to a potentially two-dimensional character, the Yank sexpot. But, yes, she is very, very sexy.
"UNUSUAL LIGHTNESS OF TOUCH"
The film recalls Allen's 1989 classic Crimes And Misdemeanours, with a typically depressing view on fate, fidelity and the nature of man. But whereas Allen can sound tiresome on these subjects in interviews - the well-off artist bemoaning the meaninglessness of his comfortable life - in Match Point he manages to explore his pet themes with an unusual lightness of touch. The film is a dramatic thriller but it's a good deal more playful and witty than many of his recent comedies.
It's unusual to see a British film with such a cinematic air (too often our movies look like TV). We don't make them like this anymore. We didn't think Allen did either. Thankfully, we were wrong.