Match Point

Match Point

[mach point for 1; mach point for 2]
Match Point is a 2005 film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton. Meyers plays Chris Wilton, a tennis pro seeking a new direction for his life, who seems to find it all (friendship, a new career, love) when he meets the members of a wealthy British family. Mortimer and Goode play siblings in the family, and Johansson plays a struggling actress who is engaged to Goode's character. The film is the first of Allen's films to be shot in England, produced by BBC Films, and his first film since Love and Death to be entirely shot outside of the United States.

The film enjoyed financial and critical success and some critics even considered it a comeback for Allen after a series of flops like Hollywood Ending and Anything Else. Allen was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay, his first Oscar nomination since his 1997 film Deconstructing Harry. The film was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards for the film, Allen's writing and directing, and Johansson's performance.

The story is a fable about the role that luck plays in determining everyone's destiny. As protagonist Chris Wilton notes in an opening voice-over:

The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn't and you lose.
This is accompanied by a shot of a tennis ball repeatedly crossing the net on a tennis court until it finally hits the top of the net and bounces vertically upwards. The image of the ball in the air is kept in a freeze frame shot and the side of the court that the ball will land in remains unclear.

This film is heavily influenced by Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment and Chris is seen reading that book during the early portions of the film. Additionally, W. Somerset Maugham's 1939 story "The Facts of Life" adapted to film in 1948 as part of Quartet concerned a young tennis player and the importance of luck.


After realizing he doesn't have what it takes to become a successful professional tennis player, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) takes a job as a tennis coach at Queen's Tennis Club. He befriends Tom (Matthew Goode), a rich young playboy, and begins a tender yet somewhat passionless relationship with Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), whom he describes as 'sweet'. They are both members of the wealthy Hewett family, headed by father Alec (played by Brian Cox) and mother Eleanor (Penelope Wilton).

Chris Wilton is immediately drawn to Tom's fiancée, American actress Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), as she is to him. The two act on this mutual attraction when they have sex in a field in the rain, though Nola later tells him nothing can come of it.

Some time later Chris marries Chloe and has a promising career as a businessman in her father's firm. After discovering Tom and Nola have broken up, he attempts to locate her and finally bumps into her at the Tate Modern. In a brief homage to Hitchcock, we see Woody Allen's face on a poster outside the Tate as Chris approaches the building. He begins an affair with her, one that soon leads to Nola's news that she's pregnant and that she does not want to terminate the pregnancy. This accidental pregnancy is in stark contrast to the situation between Chris and Chloe where Chloe has been unable to become pregnant despite all attempts to conceive. While Chris' passion for Nola remains strong, his whole life is so dependent on the wealthy family that took him under their wing that for a while he tries to have it all — a situation Nola is increasingly unable to tolerate. Nola demands he talk to Chloe and tells Chris that if he doesn't talk to Chloe, she will.

Chris begins to ensnare himself in his web of lies: as events threaten to reveal the affair Chris feels cornered. After discussing the matter with a trusted friend and former tennis partner he opts to maintain his comfortable life with Chloe and sure enough of that decision he feels compelled to kill Nola.

His plan is to make Nola's death look like a drug-related crime — which leads him to also target Nola's neighbour (played by Margaret Tyzack). Surreptitiously, he takes a hunting gun from his father-in-law's household. He leaves work, pretending to be going out to play tennis, but actually taking the disassembled hunting gun in a large sports bag. After gaining entry to the elderly lady's apartment, he assembles the hunting gun while she is in another room, kills her in cold blood, and takes her medication and jewellery — among other possessions — putting them all in his bag. In a nod to Dostoyevsky's classic novel, Crime and Punishment, he almost gets caught at the scene of the crime by another neighbour, who comes inquiring for the old lady. Fortunately for Chris, he assumes she's asleep and leaves. Then, he waits for Nola to arrive from work and kills her and his unborn child on the landing just outside her apartment — making it appear that she has disturbed the murderer's getaway.

As planned, he strengthens his alibi by meeting his wife at the theatre to attend an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (The Woman in White) right after the murders.

Wilton deposits his bag with the disassembled hunting gun and the stolen goods at the cloakroom of the theatre where he joins his wife. After the musical, he brings the bag home. Later, when they visit his in-laws, he returns the hunting gun. He stuffs the stolen goods into his pockets and rejoins the family gathering. Later, he hurls the stolen goods into the Thames. The last item he throws, though — a gold ring — hits the railing, and then falls onto the pavement below, rather than into the river as intended. The film shows this dramatically as an analogy of the tennis ball hitting the top of the net at the very beginning.

As Wilton had hoped, the police (Steve Pemberton, Ewen Bremner, James Nesbitt) take it as primarily a drug murder of the neighbour, with the additional murder of Nola the result of her happening to pass by. During and after the crimes several risky situations occur, which could have revealed Chris' involvement. Miraculously, each time Chris gets lucky. One police detective starts to doubt the drug murder story and suspect Wilton, despite the scepticism of fellow-officers.

The gold ring that Chris left on the riverside pavement, with an engraving tying it to his crime, is fortuitously discovered by a drug addict who has it in his possession when he is found dead, making the ring the piece of evidence that saves Chris, rather than condemning him, as the audience was led to believe earlier. The film ends with the Hewett family celebrating the arrival of Chris and Chloe's newborn son, as Chris stares off into space.


Starring (in alphabetical order)

Co-starring (in alphabetical order)

Also-starring (in order of appearance)


The film's backdrop includes well-known London locations such as the Tate Modern, Norman Foster's "Gherkin", Richard Rogers' Lloyd's building, the Royal Opera House, the Palace of Westminster, Blackfriars Bridge and Cambridge Circus. One of the University of Westminster's Marylebone campus lecture theatres was also used. UK-based graffiti artist Banksy's "girl with balloon" appears briefly in the film.


The film's soundtrack consists almost entirely of pre-World War I 78 rpm recordings of opera arias sung by Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.

Opera connoisseurs have noted that the arias and opera extracts make an ironic commentary on the actions of the characters and sometimes foreshadow developments in the movie's narrative. The Caruso arias are intercut with extracts from contemporary performances which the characters attend over the course of the film. There are scenes at the Royal Opera House and elsewhere performed by opera singers ("La Traviata" performed by Janis Kelly and Alan Oke, "Rigoletto" performed by Mary Hegarty), accompanied by a piano (performed by Tim Lole) and not, as is usual, by an orchestra (for saving money).

Arias and extracts include work by Verdi (in particular Macbeth, La Traviata, Il Trovatore and Rigoletto), Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles, Carlos Gomes' Salvatore Rosa sung by Caruso. The romanza Una furtiva lagrima from L'elisir d'amore is featured repeatedly, including during the opening credits.

Neighbour Mrs. Eastby (Margaret Tyzack) is listening to budget price Naxos CD "Operatic Duets for Tenor and Baritone" by Janez Lotrič & Igor Morozov (Gioachino Rossini's Guglielmo Tell from "Arresta", then Verdi' Otello from the murder scene "Desdemona") when she is shot by Chris.

A portion of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Woman in White is heard while Emily Mortimer is waiting for Jonathan Rhys Meyers at Palace Theatre.

The movie's trailer features the song "Postscript" by the Irish band Autamata, vocals by Carol Keogh, though this is not featured in the movie itself.

The following arias and songs from the soundtrack are available as MP3 downloads from the Internet Archive:


Known for not being content with his work, Allen has claimed that Match Point "arguably may be the best film that I've made. This is strictly accidental, it just happened to come out right. You know, I try to make them all good, but some come out and some don't. With this one everything seemed to come out right. The actors fell in, the photography fell in and the story clicked. I caught a lot of breaks.

Critical response

The film received generally strong reviews from critics. As of January 21, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film received 79% positive reviews, based on 191 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 72 out of 100, based on 40 reviews. On IMDb, it has a score of 7.8 out of 10. Match Point has also been the object of scholarship. Joseph Henry Vogel argues the film is exemplary of ecocriticism as an economic school of thought.

Box office

Match Point broke a long streak of box office flops for Allen, with a worldwide gross of $85,298,271 to 5th October, 2006 comprising $23,151,529 in its domestic run and $62,146,742 abroad, according to Box Office Mojo.

See also


External links

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