Today I will be taking exactly 500 words to discuss BOTH Match Point (2005) by Woody Allen and Happy Accidents (2000) by Brad Anderson. The only thing they have in common? I watched them both this week. You may notice that I generally review movies as they come out on DVD, not when they are still running in theaters. This is because I am a cheapskate.
As usual, this italicized introduction does not count against my 500-word limit.
Let me get this out of the way: Happy Accidents reminded me why I love movies and Match Point made me want to bathe with my toaster.
Match Point is one of those horrid new-style dramas where everyone is completely unlikeable. All the characters are fabulously wealthy and utter lines like “I’ve been to Athens… but I hear the islands are paradise.” Poor art direction, strikingly awkward visual composition and characters more befitting a BBC miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice than a Woody Allen film also contribute to its demise.
I quickly soured to this film. That’s because it starts immediately with a freeze-frame and a philosophical voice-over employing an overextended tennis metaphor. I like to call this the “film professor’s nightmare” and it’s proof that even Woody Allen can’t use a cliché just because he feels like it.
Let’s just take a moment to remember Woody Allen’s career.
Remember when Alvy sneezed on the cocaine in Annie Hall? Yeah, that was good.
Back to business.
There were two moments I liked, but which ended up self-destructing. One is when Detective Banner sits bolt upright in bed and cries out, “Chris Wilton killed them! I see how he did it!” I thought this was hilarious. Unfortunately, it was apparently supposed to be taken seriously. There goes that.
The other is right at the beginning of the film. We see Chris Wilton lying in bed, reading Crime and Punishment. After a moment, he puts it down and picks up a study guide to Dostoevsky. I loved this because it required the audience to be visually observant and connect some conceptual dots to get the joke. Woody Allen is great at that sort of thing, and It’s a fitting parody of those who style themselves as intellectuals for purposes of social advancement. Unfortunately, Allen spends the next two hours catering to exactly that audience.
Final thought? Inside every pretentious film like Match Point is a stupid movie trying to get out.
Happy Accidents, conversely, is a smart movie masquerading as a dumb romantic comedy. It also gets the prestigious honor of being a movie that my mother and I both enjoyed.
The story is that of Ruby and her eccentric boyfriend Sam, who claims to be from the future. The acting was good (Vincent D’Onofrio sure knows how to do ‘eccentric’), the aesthetic was nice, and the premise was solid if somewhat contrived. What really struck me was directorial craftsmanship. It was a majestic thing to behold the way Anderson shapes the film as it progresses (a kindred spirit; Anderson not only wrote and directed but also edited Happy Accidents).
This movie gets all the important stuff right. It has intellectual depth (I could explicate it all night), smart humor, great character development and dialog, wonderful pacing and an ending that, without being a downer, did not offend my indie sensibilities.
The long and short of it: Watch Happy Accidents instead of Match Point. You’ll thank me.