I haven’t written much about movies on this site, mainly because every movie that comes out now gets reviewed a thousand times, and who needs more? But yesterday I had an experience at the cinema so unpleasant that I want to share it, just to make sure no one else suffers the same fate.
It was Friday afternoon at the end of a not very good week, so I decided to treat myself by taking in a matinee of Woody Allen’s latest film, Match Point. What little I had heard about this film had led me to believe it was a romantic comedy involving tennis. I figured at worst I would get to spend two hours ogling the sublime she-creature we call Scarlett Johansson.
And there were some good opportunities for that, including a love scene in the rain and a scene of her angry and braless that made a strong impression. But what I didn’t expect was that—
WARNING: I am about to give away everything about Match Point (it would be generous to call it “spoiling”). So if you’re a purist who wants to see this movie without knowing where it’s going, read no further. On the other hand, if you’re a thinking, feeling human being who wants to avoid a dreadful shock, read on.
What I didn’t expect was that it turned out to be an emotionally wrenching drama where Scarlett’s character ends up getting mowed down with a shotgun. And not just her, but also the old lady who lives down the hall from her. Thankfully, you don’t actually see it happen; but still, this is not what I was looking for from this film.
Now, I have no problem with a movie that takes unexpected turns. A while ago I wrote in praise of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, which starts as one kind of movie and ends up as a completely different one. But there are two key differences: 1) I expect that kind of thing from a twisted fuck like David Cronenberg, and 2) the movie is called A History of Violence, so you’re prepared going in.
I can see how you could argue for Match Point‘s legitimacy as a work of art. Woody’s taking a pretty bold risk with this plot, and to his credit he doesn’t cop out at the end. (Through sheer luck, the killer gets away with it.) I just wish I’d been prepared for it. I spent the last half-hour of this movie with my arms wrapped around me in the defensive posture I usually reserve for watching episodes of The Office. As traumatic film experiences go, the only thing I can think of that was worse is Requiem for a Dream, which remains on a level all its own.
And in truth, the horror of Match Point feels less like an artistic statement and more like gratuitous shock value. If Woody just wanted to make a point about the role chance plays in life, there were other ways to do it. There’s something sadistic about this film, and I’m not going to forgive him for it anytime soon.