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The 36 Dramatic Situations: Match Point (2005) and Murderous Adultery

By  · Published on August 23rd, 2010

This article is part of our 36 Dramatic Situations series.

For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by presenting a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th-century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today.

Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t marry Emily Mortimer for her money and cheat on her with Ryan Reynolds’s wife.

Part 15 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Murderous Adultery” with Match Point.

The Synopsis

Chris is a former tennis professional currently trying to find work as an instructor. In a session with his new student Tom, an attractive young man with a wealthy pedigree, he meets Tom’s sister Chloe and the two develop a romantic relationship. Not long after Chris meets Tom’s stunning fiancée and becomes instantly obsessed. As time passes Chris’s obsession leads to an affair that he tries to juggle while maintaining an unbothered front to remain Chloe’s husband and still be in his wealthy in-laws’ good graces.

The Situation

“Murderous Adultery” – The elements of two adulterers and either a betrayed husband or wife come together in this situation, ending in the demise of one, or more, of the three characters involved. This can be a rather fun situation for a writer to play within that in any given story the object of the audience’s sympathy can be any of the three whether they’re the victim of adultery, the guilty spouse, or the paramour. Then, when you add in the element of murder the person committing the murder could be provoked by revenge, or even as in the case of Match Point, a premeditated attempt to get out of an unenviable quandary.

The Movie

When the film was released in 2005, following the relative critical success of Allen’s comedy/drama vignette hybrid Melinda and Melinda the year prior, it was being hailed as Woody Allen’s potential return to quality to match his unmatched level of prolificity amongst Stateside film directors. Since the release of Annie Hall in 1977, there has not been a single year gone by that went without the debut of a new Woody Allen picture, during which time between 1977 and 1998 he would become an almost annual staple at the Academy Awards as a nominee as writer or director.

Match Point is more in line with Allen’s serious dramas, like Interiors, that are heavily inspired by his affection for Ingrid Bergman and it plays out like a well-structured stage play as many of Allen’s films tend to do. What makes Match Point such an interesting picture is the protagonist, Chris (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and his unquestionable despicability.

In this dramatic situation, which this film fits into without struggle, Chris is the object of our disgust, but he’s also the focal point of the story and seeing him deal with the stress and anguish of the predicament he’s put himself in is both delightful and anxious. We want to see to what extent he’ll go to get himself out of one of the two relationships, but once we found out we hope he gets caught – because he deserves it, but wouldn’t necessarily enjoy seeing it happen because he’s our hero and it would be an incredibly uncomfortable scene to sit through. With any way Allen would choose to offer closure, he has written a story in which catharsis for the audience can be attained either with discomfort or anger, making Match Point one of the most daring pictures in his filmography.

Bonus Examples: Fatal Attraction, The Good Girl, What Lies Beneath, Unfaithful

Check out our entire series of 36 Dramatic Situations, 36 Movies.

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