Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Divas and Princesses

Just got a wonderful email from two very dear friends - I sent them the link to my blog and they wrote that I could have also called it Divinations of a Dustbowl Diva. I love that! It is particularly funny because other friends told me I'm no princess and should have called myself a diva but I wasn't willing to give up the alliteration. So good to know that I have an alternative in the wings!

I have resigned as the movie reviewer for The Sower. I'm looking forward to the freedom of a blog to talk about tv and books and other things. I'll miss the connection that the reviews created though with people in the diocese.

Here is one of the reviews I wrote for The Sower this summer.

“Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their children are established in their presence, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.”
So asked the righteous Job in the midst of his suffering. And so have many others asked as they witnessed the wicked prosper while the innocent suffered. Match Point is Woody Allen’s latest answer to this question.
Match Point is the story of a tennis player who leaves the professional circuit after a mediocre career and takes a job as a pro at a London country club. What’s the difference between a great career and a mediocre career? Luck. Your ball touches the net and if you are lucky the ball goes over the net. If you aren’t it falls back to your side for match point.
Whatever Chris’ luck has been as a player it changes when he meets the wealthy Tom. The two hit it off and Tom invites Chris to the opera where Chris meets Tom’s sister Chloe. Chloe sets her eyes on Chris and before you know it she is grooming him to become her husband. Her father gives him a job in one of his companies and soon Chris is wearing expensive clothes and is being chauffeured around London in a lovely car. While he comes from a poor Irish background he has learned how to behave around the upper classes and Chloe’s parents approve of the match.
They are less approving of Tom’s choice of a fiancee. He is engaged to an American would-be actress who chokes at auditions. Nola is beautiful and is used to men falling for her. She enjoys Tom and frankly enjoys his wealth. Unlike Chris, however, she doesn’t know how to play the upper class game with Tom’s parents. Tom’s mother does what she can to break up the relationship. This wouldn’t be a problem except that Tom, like the rest of this crew is shallow and unprincipled. Lucky for him, he falls for a more acceptable woman and dumps Nola.
This complicates matters for Chris who is obsessed with Nola. Unlucky for him that Tom ends their engagement after Chris has already married Chloe. But then it is unlikely he would have given up everything Chloe offered him for the sake of passion with Nola. Lucky for him that he is able to carry on an affair with Nola while being married to Chloe.
I won’t say anything more about the story because it is suspenseful and surprising and I don’t want to spoil that. But I will say that in the end Woody Allen seems to be saying that there is no justice in the universe. The universe is random and luck determines how you fare. And so maybe the innocent suffer while the wicked prosper but it all depends on which side of the net the ball falls.
This isn’t the first time that Allen has explored these issues. In his 1989 film, Crimes and Misdemeanors Martin Landau plays an ophthalmologist who has an affair that sours. When his mistress threatens to tell his wife he agonizes over what to do. He knows what he should do, he was raised in a religious home and knows that he should confess his infidelity to his wife and ask for her forgiveness. There is no guarantee that she will give it though and his brother offers him a more certain solution. He knows people who will ‘take care’ of her and no one need ever know about the affair.
For all his moral agonizing when it comes right down to it the doctor decides it would be better to have his mistress murdered. And he doesn’t get caught. His wife never finds out and two years later even his conscience isn’t bothering him. The righteous in the film are represented by the rabbi who is going blind and the philosopher who commits suicide.
When I first saw this film I desperately wanted the film to say that there was justice in the universe. I was studying the book of Job at the time and wrestling with the questions Job asks. In the end, though, I had to agree that as far as Allen is concerned the wicked aren’t punished, even by their consciences. It is a powerful yet ultimately disturbing film.
The same can be said about Match Point.

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