Friday, February 10, 2006

An American Tragedy

Matchpoint, the new film directed and written by Woody Allen, is similar to Dreiser's An American Tragedy and the movie that followed. Only this time, Scarlett Johansson is playing the Shelley Winters role, and someone else Elizabeth Taylor's role. The fall guy in the older film was Montgomery Clift.

The Dreiser story: An ambitious young man gets involved with a plain Jane, who becomes pregnant; then he connects with a rich woman; he drowns the Plain Jane--only to be charged with murder.

In the film, the Plain Jane is a sexpot, engaged to the brother of the rich young woman whom our amibitious young hero marries. Our hero is smitten by the sexpot, who eventually becomes smitten with him--just when his lust has dwindled and he decides he doesn't want to sacrifice the Very Good Life. So he murders her. Cleverly. I won't reveal whether he's caught or not.

Something remarkable: having to do with luck, with whether a tennis ball that hits the top of the net will go over or not.

The similarities in the plots are acceptable. There are important, interesting changes. The movie itself is intelligent, the writing topnotch.

But...the movie is pretty slow. A half-hour could have been excised.

And there's a deus-ex-machina coincidence at the end.