All reptilian pout and implausible cheekbones, Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ preening, carnivorous narcissism has seen him cast as rock stars and spoiled scions of privilege; what drives Chris Wilton, the Irish tennis pro he plays in woody allen’s opera-drenched, London-shot (although really, just find-and-replace “Hayden Planetarium” with “tate modern”) Match Point, is less ambition than a deep-seated sense of entitlement. Ingratiating himself with two siblings from a functionally alcoholic upper-class family (Emily Mortimer and Matthew Goode, affably passive), his courtship of sister chloe nets a corner office in the family business, and his ego leads him into an affair with brother Tom’s american fiancee, struggling actress Nola (Scarlett Johansson).
Rhys Meyers and Johansson’s softcore-steamy trysts (rain-soaked fields, blindfolds, massage oils) tweak a famous Woodyism: it’s not sex with someone they love, it’s masturbation — hence Chris’s aggressive pursuit of Nola, even after he’s married the maternally-minded Chloe. But Johansson’s relegation to “I’m not going to be ignored” territory leads Chris into increasingly desperate moral compromises. Very much like Allen’s crimes and misdemeanors, Match Point’s obsession is guilt and its repercussions. But while that film anguished over the void where God should be, Allen’s nihilism here is coldly matter-of-fact, expressed through a luck-conquers-all motif that’s joined to the slickly Hitchcockian thriller structure of the last third by the discarding of a key piece of evidence (like in rear window, a wedding ring). what Match Point’s sexy soullessness and ironic coincidences ultimately work up to — and what the inevitable talk of Woody’s stylish rejuvenation may obscure — is a final scene that’s nothing less than an atheist’s rendering of original sin.
Opens December 25