The Set of 400: #320 – My Favorite British Theodore Dreiser Tragedy

Today! Because you have to learn to push guilt under the rug and move on –

Match Point (2005)

Directed by Woody Allen

Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Emily Mortimer, Penelope Wilton, Toby Kebbell, James Nesbitt, Ewan Bremner

The best of Woody’s European/Johansson cinematic excursion of the mid-to-late ’00s, Match Point was the first good movie he’d made in some time, and the first solid straight drama since at least Husbands and Wives in ’92 (and that’s still a funny-ish movie). This Hitchcockian-Dostoevskyian suspense thriller feels reinvigorated by a change of venue from the notoriously NYC-centric filmmaker – a move almost entirely due to British funding more than any desire to leave the Big Apple. The cast is first rate, and the script clips right along – something that Woody’s later comedies have a hard time achieving.

This is the only one of Woody’s pure dramas to make the list – as much as I admire Interiors and Crimes and Misdemeanors, I don’t have great affection for them. It is also one of only two of his films made after 1995 to appear here (again, I’m going to warn there is a lot of Woody Allen coming in the next year. And again, yes, I struggle with this – see #349 Broadway Danny Rose for more details), as his later work has been very hit and miss. For every good-to-great Midnight in Paris or Blue Jasmine, there have been five Anything Elses and Cafe Societys. But hey, at least he keeps making movies. And every four or five years or so, a pretty good one.

If I never see Cafe Society again it’ll be too soon

But yes, Match Point – I think a lot of my rosy affection for this dark, murderous thriller is because it had been a while since Sweet and Lowdown in ’98 – the last really good Allen film at the time (okay, I kinda like Small Time Crooks too). And like his other dramas, it manages to look like a Woody Allen movie (albeit with London establishing shots now) while not feeling like something you’d expect him to make. There isn’t one off-handed, mood-lightening line about Prozac or communists thrown in to remind you who’s doing the writing/directing.

This movie garnered Woody the 14th of his 16 Best Screenplay nominations from the Academy, as well as Directing, Picture, and Supporting Actress nominations at the Globes. A pretty fun award it picked up in ’06 was the Iowa Film Critics honor Best Film Yet to Open in Iowa! I like this concept of awarding something people can’t see. I’m giving the Set of 400 Best Film to Never Screen in My Spare Bedroom to The Day the Clown Cried by Jerry Lewis! Congratulations!

Hopefully someday!

Woody becomes the tenth member of the Director’s Two-Timers club today, as we rapidly approach our first behind-the-camera Three-Timer. Who will it be? Zemeckis? Altman? Hitchcock? Tom Shadyac?? Come back next Wednesday to find out!

Coming tomorrow! How can a train be lost? It’s on rails –

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