07 January 2006

Noah and I just got back from Match Point, which is a great movie, and a reminder that comedy is much, much harder to do than drama. A good drama—like In the Bedroom, for example—can be built from a good premise and the right actors, but a good—or even fair—comedy requires a great premise, great timing, a lot of serendipity, and a hundred moments of ingenuity. If it falls short even a little bit, audiences are much less forgiving.

Now consider Woody Allen. He makes a new comedy every year, thinking up new jokes and building up his craft with the most challenging regimen imaginable—because even a mediocre comedy needs to surprise its audience, in both large and small ways, at least once a minute, hopefully more. As his recent films demonstrate, it doesn't always work. But in Match Point, he applies the same wit and ingenuity to story and character that he usually invests in humor, and the result is flabbergasting.

There aren't any obvious jokes in Match Point, but every scene contains the visual or dramatic equivalent of a one-liner. The whole movie is one subtle flourish after another. In a comedy, we'd take these moments of inspiration for granted, but in a thriller, we're delighted. It's as if Allen had been running a marathon a year with weights on his legs, but when they're removed, he runs and runs and runs.

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