Woody Gets Away With Murder

Films that suck make me mad. I mean physically mad. Mad like “I wish I had Blank. T. Blank’s blankityblank phone number and/or address so I could aggressively insert myself into their life and tell them how much they and their movie blew until the police show up and arrest me for assault and maybe stalking” mad.

Such is the case for Wood E. Allen’s Match Point, which Susan and I watched yesterday… although “watched” might not be the right word. I actually think I pfff’d the bullshit flick more than I watched it, but whatever.

Here’s the timeline. At some other movie a few months ago we see the trailer for Match Point. Immmediately afterward Susan and I are basically shocked at what a ridiculous piece of retreaded Fatal Attraction crap the clip makes it look to be. Few weeks later, the movie bows and seemingly every reviewer from Roger Ebert on up is just writhing in critical glee and apopleptic praise for what a wittywickedwow of a wonder Woody hath wrought. Whoever the reviewer is for Rolling Stone magazine even dared to reference Allen as “the Woodman” and gush how he’s back and bee-aay-double-dee bad with his best effort since Annie Hall or some shit like that.

To which Susan and I say Oh Heeeell no!

But the acclaim just seems nonstop and slowly it whittles away at our resolve to avoid this presumed piece of trash like the plague until I start thinking well maybe the trailer is what sucked and the movie might not be so bad.

SIDE NOTE: Even if that had even half a chance of
being true, a good rule of thumb to follow is
that if the film’s marketing department/trailer
makers can’t get their shit together to make
the show look worth watching, fuggetaboutit.

Maybe, I rationalized, what we saw in that two-minute trailer isn’t what we’re  gonna get in the whole two-hour deal? And on it went to our Netflix list and last night we learned that rationalizing is just almost always a bad thing and that our instincts were right.

It’s not that the film was all bad. Everything was going great those first few minutes when we get introduced to a pretty engaging protaganist in the form of a washed-up and drifting young tennis pro played by one of those three-names-and-a-hypen English actors, in this case one Jonathan Rhys-Meyers who looks like the mix-and-match love child that would be produced from some however biologically unfeasible and unholy threesome involving Malcolm McDowell, Eric Roberts and Joaquin Phoenix. Not that his compelling looks are a bad thing.

But it certainly is when Scarlett Johannnson appears onscreen. Any forward momentum that had been building doesn’t just stop, it flat out dies. Maybe it’s that passions are kindled over a paddle tennis table. Maybe it’s the inescapable vacuum of chemistry that immediately exists between Rhys-Meyers and Johannson and sustains itself throughout the entire film (though not for Rhys-Meyers’ lack of trying). Or maybe it’s that Johannson doesn’t waste a second of screentime giving a performance worsted only by the Gweneth Paltrow’s in Sky Captain and the World of the Day After Tomorrow Never Dies.

Certainly she has no problem looking the part of the femme-fatale. Everything she needs to do that is firmly in place.  But rather than just ogle her with his camera in one hand and gawd knows what else in the other, the Woodman (that just gets ickier everytime I use it) had to go and give her a character to pretend to be with lines she has little idea how to deliver and unremarkable things for her character to do (like whine and drink and sulk and drink), and frankly Scarlett I don’t give a damn. It doesn’t matter how good you look or how much I cherished you in Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring, this time around you devoid your character — a struggling American boozer actress, no less (three yawns up for that boring choice Woody!) — of  any intensity so completely as to make anything that happens as a result of her uncompelling ridiculous and incongruous.

In truth I don’t blame Scarlett, I blame Bush — I mean Woody. When he’s not repeatedly beating us over the head with tennis-as-life analogies or mashing-up a potpourri plot of Dostoyevsky, shotguns, upward mobility, opera, inbred-inclined Brits, cell phones, fertility issues and inanely clueless police investigators, then he spends the rest of the film beating us obvious idiots in the  audience to death with his message of The Important Role Of Luck in life, tennis, the universe and everything without realizing that a little of the stuff goes a long way in making an actor — or a film — work.