A Glass of Chianti

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Match Point

I went to see it this weekend. I was quite surprised as I think I was expecting to see an interesting failure. Instead, I saw a fine movie that failed in two interesting ways. First, the non-diegetic music was all wrong. The movie goes to great lengths to establish that the social-climbing protagonist, Chris, understands the accoutrements of the upper class, but his familiarity is just an exercise in fitting in. He knows he's supposed to be conversant about opera, so he gets a solid grounding. (Apparently, Dostoevsky is another hallmark of his desired world, so we see him at the beginning of the movie putting down Crime and Punishment and picking up the Cambridge Companion volume.) So, he doesn't like opera, but the world he marries into does. Fine. Got it. But then why are we still hearing Verdi when he's with Nola, the American actress ex-fiance of his brother-in-law? The plot is emphatically not operatic (and if we miss that point, we are reminded every five minutes that everything is just about luck) so the music is left to suggest heft that just isn't there.

The other thing that goes wrong is that the lust just isn't very convincing. We never buy into the sex that we are told (and then, again, helpfully reminded every five minutes) that relationships (that aren't built on money) are all about. If you're going to make a movie about risking it all, you have to have something for which everything is worth risking. Love would be too old-fashioned, of course, but because everything between Nola and Chris is flat to the nth degree, the lust doesn't work, either.

All that aside, though, it was quite fine and certainly not a waste of an afternoon, even if I did just (appropriately) luck into seeing it because the air conditioning was broken in the room that was showing the movie that I had come to see. I was in the theatre with an older couple sitting in the back row who spent the movie yelling at the screen (and at each other, repeating many the lines) and a young-ish man with whom I had a short conversation after the movie ended. This was over when he said something that should never, never, never, ever be uttered - "You know, you're nothing like my ex-wife."