Jan 8, 2006

The Woodsman Blows

I don't get it. I just don't. All that fawning talk about Match Point, such a great movie, yadda yadda. Well, I wasn't disappointed 'cause for starters I didn't have much faith. After all, this is a guy who has being churning out one terrible film a year for the last ten years. A guy who once was brilliant and fresh and who got lazy and sloppy and stopped living in the real world. But lest my readers think I was prejudiced against Match Point, I really wanted to believe that the Woodsman was finally redeeming himself. No such luck. Match Point is lazy and sloppy and is not about anyone who inhabits this planet. I sat through this absurd bore of a movie listening to some of the most contrived, ridiculous, basic lines of dialogue, which sound like some freshman's screenplay from the NY Film Academy. It's not that one cannot believe that some arriviste tennis player ends up marrying into a very wealthy family and then screws up royally because of greed and convenience. This kind of plot has been done to death all over the 19th century by guys like Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, Balzac, Maupassant, Flaubert, you name 'em. Well, Woody Allen is none of them, altough he tries hard to cloak himself in moral seriousness, which is supposed to disguise writing as pedestrian as that of a soap opera. The plot unfolds with coincidence after coincidence, as if London is a city of ten blocks where everybody runs into one another. The stuff that comes out of people's mouths is so expository, so banal, so shoddily written, it's beyond belief. I want to know what millionaire takes an impoverished guy under his wing, for no apparent reason, gives him his daughter, an office and a chauffered car and tells him not to worry, for he has "a safety net". Not in this day and age when even the homeless would make you sign a prenup if they could. The intellectual laziness of the plot is explained away by the concept of luck. Everything happens because of luck, which in itself wouldn't be so hard to believe if the characters it happens to resembled actual humans. Scarlett Johansson plays an American girl from Boulder, Colorado who is studying acting in London. She must belong to the creme de la creme of Boulder, being that she lives in a magnificent flat and wears stunning clothes, despite the fact that she works in a boutique and is supposed to be "a struggling actress". Her flat looks super posh but the next door neighbor has mice and the neighborhood is infested with drug dealing. Not that you ever see this, because Woody is busy showing you picture postcards of the Big Ben and the Thames and streets so clean and pretty they look like they've been scrubbed with Brillo pads. Scarlett even has a rotary phone, so how can she know that it is her lover calling her at a key moment? A rotary phone!!!! Absurd stuff like this is what keeps you half entertained the entire film, when you are not stewing because you realize that Woody Allen thinks that you are a moron. I kept hearing that the shocking thing about this film is that it makes you side with the villain. I didn't side with anyone because the whole thing seemed dated and irrelevant to me. All the characters are underwritten, but the female parts are dreadful. Miss Johansson tries her best with the part of a sexy vixen who then turns into a hysterical shrew, as is to be expected from a director who is not fond of women. The way it's written, it is impossible to understand who she is or what she really wants. Emily Mortimer just winces and squints and pouts her way around the role of a British airhead with cultural pretensions. She looks utterly lost, but then she has not much to hang on to. I pity the actors. Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, both of the amazing bee-stung lips, acquit themselves with as much grace and dignity as they can muster under a heavy directorial hand. Their sex scenes are a joke, so vulgar and clumsy as to elicit laughter. In fact, in quite a number of scenes the word "amateurish" comes to mind. The otherwise wonderful Brian Cox is not only wasted as the millionaire patriarch, he also looks suspiciously like that unbearable professional brownoser, James Lipton. And to be reminded of that man while you are at a movie is not a good thing. The best thing in the movie is Matthew Goode, a sort of new, improved Hugh Grant.
After three fourths of a film of excruciating boredom, stuff happens in the third act that wakes everybody up, and there is a nice twist to the story which must be the reason why people are plotzing. Too little, too late. Match Point SUCKS.

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