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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Matt the Movies: Popping Woody

The past decade or so has not been kind to Woody Allen. Not only does he have to put up with constant late-show-host-type pedophilia jokes and the Knicks' gradual descent into Hell, but the same snobby, pretentious, New York-based critics that ate up his past films about snobby, pretentious New Yorkers started saying no to things like "Celebrity," "Hollywood Ending," "Anything Else," and, lest I forget (and I'd really like to), "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion." The Woody shtick that has made him perhaps the greatest American director of his generation started to seem stale. It didn't help that he had to hang around with such up-and-coming-stars-that-keep-Woody-hip like Christina Ricci, Jason Biggs, Debra Messing, Tea Leoni, Amanda Peet and an increasingly-annoying Will Ferrell. Maybe it's just that fraternizing with Helen Hunt and her ilk doesn't get the Woodster's auteuristique juices flowing.

And now we have Mr. Konigsberg's newest feature, "Match Point," currently playing at the Nugget. Those same fickle critics that pooh-poohed "Melinda and Melinda" are now screaming over "Match Point," calling it his best since "Crimes and Misdemeanors." They said things like it's Allen's "most satisfying film in more than a decade" (A.O. Scott, The New York Times); "Match Point is wittier and more coherent than anything Allen has done in ages" (Andrew Sarris, New York Observer); and "it is the most vigorous thing he's done in years" (David Denby, New Yorker).

Their reasoning is not that Scarlett Johansson shows us her amazing tits, because, sadly, she does not. The standard reasons given for "Match Point's" quality is that Allen has somehow been re-energized by moving the setting from upper-crust Jewish Manhattan to upper-crust aristocratic London, or that the movie works better than Woody's early 2000s output because Scarlett is a vastly superior actress than, say, Amanda Peet. But the real reason why "Match Point" is Woody's best film since "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is that "Match Point" actually is "Crimes and Misdemeanors," except with no Jerry Orbach, Jewish mumbo-jumbo, or defecation S&M games.

Note: may contain plot spoilers.

The plot of "Match Point" centers around a financially-comfortable, socially hooked-up, married male protagonist (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) agonizing over whether or not to rub out his once-foxy-but-now-just-neurotic-girl-on-the-side (S-Jo). Girl threatens to tell the boring wife, which would seriously harm male protagonist's standard of living and social status.

In "Crimes and Misdemeanors," a financially-comfortable, socially hooked-up, married male protagonist (Martin Landau) agonizes over whether or not to rub out his once-foxy-but-now-just-neurotic-girl-on-the-side (a decidedly un-foxy Angelica Huston). Girl threatens to tell the boring wife, which would seriously harm male protagonist's standard of living and social status.

Allen is sending a message that is worth heeding. If you are going to be a skanky mistress with the occupation of flight attendant or non-working actress, just chill the "f" out when you're getting dumped. In Allen's universe, these poor souls just might end up with a shotgun wound to the torso or an unwanted flower delivery from New Orleans-based Mafioso. You'd figure that Scarlett would know better than to do crazy things, like call Meyers at home -- I mean, hadn't she seen how Orbach handled Angelica Huston in "Crimes?"

Other directors may have themes that reappear in their films (does the world need another Catholic guilt movie from Martin Scorsese?), and Hollywood churns out the same formulaic sh*t season after season (Exhibit A: "Final Destination," Exhibit B: "Final Destination 2," Exhibit C: "Final Destination 3," Exhibit D: "Nanny McPhee"), but Allen's self-plagiarism is absolutely brazen. Just because they have British accents doesn't absolve Woody (or, as they say in France, Hoody Alain).

You knew you were going to get pointless conversations about Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, Camus or other European thinker-types that explain why I avoid philosophy classes; a soundtrack featuring music your grandparents might listen to; and people wittily bantering in cultural settings like modern art galleries or art-house movie theaters. But I wasn't expecting the same plot points, characters and even a couple of the same lines.

Critics have pointed out that Allen's moral universe is totally devoid of values, suggesting that this might be some sort of problem. (Well, what do you expect from a guy that bones his long-time girlfriend's underage adopted daughter?) If you placed a newborn in a white room and beamed the entire Allen oeuvre into its mind, they would probably grow up to be a lying, selfish, asshole cheater who masturbates over new art shows and critically-approved film. In other words, an Upper East Sider. Unlike Hilary Duff movies, many times lessons are not learned, guy does not get girl, and sometimes, you know, psychotic and neurotic women need to be murdered.

I'm not suggesting that I did not enjoy "Match Point." Au contraire, it really was the Woodster's best movie since "Crimes and Misdemeanors." One thing is definitely certain: it was better than "When a Stranger Calls" or the new Harrison Ford movie, which I would have seen and made fun of had I gotten my sh*t together.