Verité Casts Spotlight on Iraqi Struggles [Documentary Review]
|Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in "Match Point."|
Perhaps it is Allen’s notorious reputation for delivering intelligent, existential humor through sex, infidelity and irony that brings viewers to the cinema, but in “Match Point” it is the unlikely twists and curious outcome that leaves them astonishingly satisfied.
The film begins as what you would, but really wouldn’t, expect from Woody Allen. We have a couple of couples, and the inevitable triangle of temptation set to a posh London backdrop. The chemistry between the characters obviously lacks the familiar awkwardness we’ve warmed up to in films like “Manhattan,” “Annie Hall,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and even “Anything Else,”
The film is graced by impressive performances by Rhys-Meyers, Good and Mortimer, but Johansson delivers the most passionate act of all. Ah yes, Scarlett. No wonder her face suits perfectly the character she plays, a seductive, out-of-work actress who manages to captivate the sexual intrigue of almost every male character in the film, not to mention every man in the theater. Although she played her part well, the performance doesn’t compare to her 2003 role in “Lost in Translation.” Johansson is flawlessly beautiful in “Match Point.” At first, the captivating curves of her face, above all her lips, would have done just as well depicting the sensuality of Nola’s character without any words. But as time goes on, Nola’s aura transforms from aloof to a desperation that is trickled with distinct human grit.
Viewers might see similarities between “Match Point” and Allen’s 2004 film “Melinda and Melinda.” One being that (brace yourself) he doesn't act in it, which may contribute to another: it isn’t candidly funny. But beyond lacking the neurotic ramblings of an eternally middle-aged comedic genius, the film centers more firmly on a purpose. Not just an analysis of love; who’s right, who’s wrong, and the unanswerable question, “Well... (adjusts black rimmed, Coke-bottle glasses) why, really?” but more so takes a rather startling look at the magnitude that chance plays in life. The peculiar outcome in “Match Point,” along with the circumstances leading up to it, examines destiny as an ever present force hovering over our own menial choices.
Before “Melinda and Melinda” clearly confronted the question, “What is the essence of life, tragedy? Or comedy?” most of Allen’s earlier films insinuate that he’s swaying more towards comedy. Now we are left to contemplate a shift from humorous reality to one that is harshly tragic. “Match Point” makes it obvious now more than ever that Woody Allen has contributed a plethora to modern pseudo-philosophical thought.
The film earned four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay
“Me and You and Everyone We Know” [Film Review]
|John Hawkes as Richard Swersey.|
July plays Christine Jesperson, an artist and Eldercab driver who uses her artistic projects as a way to escape from, and admit to, her trivial reality. Christine falls in love with Richard Swersey, a newly single shoe-salesman (played by John Hawkes). Despite an indefinable connection, John is distracted by his new living arrangement and outlook on life, and therefore is reluctant to embrace Christine’s companionship. John’s two young sons, Peter and Robby, adjust to the new dirty-floored apartment by engaging in sexual affairs on the internet.
The story cleverly connects people through the social networks that typically link people to each other (neighbors of someone who has sons that know the girls who seduce a co-worker of the man with the sons; that type of thing). But in doing so, July’s script distinguishes each character’s struggle for a deeper personal union.
Some of the most brilliantly placed characters are the ones least exposed to us. In the film, these characters correspond to the people we sort of know, but only circumstantially. The ones you see occasionally and once-in-a-while wonder what they do in their private time – the girl next door, a prospective employer, possibly an internet lover.
One such example is John’s co-worker Andrew (Brad William Henke), who reveals his lust for two neighborhood teenage girls, Heather and Rebecca. Andrew posts dirty messages on his living room window after the pair teases him with a seductive “girl-on-girl” kiss. But when the girls eventually decide to knock on his door for a little (how do the French call it? Ménage à trois?) action, Andrew leaps to the floor in fear and hides beneath the window until they leave.
Heather and Rebecca similarly reveal their innocence when they run like children from Andrew’s doorway after days of feeling sexually empowered by an adult interest in their jail-bait sexuality. The actions of this grown man, so similar to those of two school girls, illuminate the flaws of wanting what you typically shouldn’t have; a well-done motif in July’s script.
Each character in the film seeks togetherness with someone else. They yearn for a feeling of connected identity which they can hold onto and feel satisfied.
The film is something similar to the dark dramedy“Secretary,” Steven Shainberg’s 2002 indie-sensation about a woman who engages in a sadomasochistic relationship with her elusive boss. Despite two entirely different storylines, “Me and You” takes the same stark glance at the secret pleasures that get us through life’s mundane routines. Taken out-of-context, the characters’ actions are considered absurd and even taboo, but since the filmmaker eases us into their daily simplicities, we see those identities make them who they are, and what we are (human, and not completely sure how to act accordingly).
“Me and You” won several acclaimed awards last year. The Cannes Film Festival handed over the Prix Regards Jeune Award for Best Feature Film, along with its Young Critics Award for Best Feature. The film won two Independent Spirit Awards for Best Feature and Best First Screenplay. Among others are The Sundance Film Festival (Best Dramatic Film) for its “originality in vision,” The Stockholm Film Festival (Best Directional Debut), The San Francisco International Film Festival (Best Narrative Feature) and The Philadelphia Film Festival (Best First Time Director).