Saturday, August 05, 2006

"I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Good"

The man who said, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependant on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.

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So begins “Match Point”, last year’s well written and extremely thought provoking offering from famous director/comedian (and avid atheistic nihilist) Woody Allen. This is not typical Woody Allen territory; “Match Point” is in no way humorous. It is a journey in to the dark recesses of the human heart. It speaks of those times in life when we are overcome by temptation and are pulled into such a trap that it seems nearly impossible for us to get out.

“Match Point” is the story of Chris Wilton, a famous tennis player who gets a job teaching tennis and soon falls in love with one of his rich students’ sister, Chloe. While dating this girl, he meets her brother Tom’s fiancé; the beautiful and seductive Nola. There is an immediate attraction between them that lasts through the film.

Chris and Chloe get married. While at the rich family’s summer home, Chris and Nola have a sexual encounter. Chris knows of his attraction to Nola, but marries Chloe nonetheless. They work on having children, but soon find out that Chloe is having trouble conceiving. Meanwhile, Tom breaks things off with Nola and Chris begins seeing her … often. While begrudgingly working on conceiving with his wife, Chris impregnates Nola. Nola refuses to abort the child and makes Chris’s life a living hell, saying that he needs to leave his wife and to do it soon!

(SPOILER WARNING) Chris knows that leaving his wife would ruin his career. He hatches an extremely flawed plan to kill Nola which includes killing one of Nola’s neighbors and stealing many things (including prescription drugs) from her house to make it look like a drug robbery, thus making his murder of Nola look like an accident. As Chris is disposing of the old neighbor woman’s belongings, he goes to throw her wedding ring in the water. It hits a railing and misses going in the water, just like the tennis ball at the beginning of the film.

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The police find Nola’s diary that talk of Chris. They interrogate him and he admits their relationship but denies her murder. A heroin junkie finds the ring that bounced off the railing. He is arrested later, the ring is found, and he is charged with murder since he is a drug addict and it looked like a drug robbery.

You can learn to push the guilt under the rug and go on. You have to. Otherwise it overwhelms you. The innocent [neighbor woman was] slain to make way for a grander scheme. … It would be fitting if I were apprehended and punished. At least there would be some small sign of justice. Some small measure of hope for the possibility of meaning.

Luck. That is, essentially, the message of this film. Chris would find it good to be caught for his crime, as explained above, but he chooses to see the lack of justice as luck … the ball hitting the net and falling back. As far as we know (and as far as Woody Allen would like us to know), Chris will never suffer the due penalty for his crime. His character of Chris would “rather be lucky than good.”

Justice. Chris is unable accept the reality of what he did or realize that he is being held accountable to God. He would welcome being proved wrong but sees that luck rules everything. Since life is all about luck, life has no meaning.

You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
Jeremiah 12:1

As a follower of Christ, I know that all goodness and all suffering is not weighed out on an earthly scale. In the end, the wicked will not prosper because they will be judged by God. All people who say that there is no God are going to come to a stunning realization the minute that they die. When Chris Wilton takes his final breath, he will see the faces of Nola, the child she was carrying, and the dead neighbor lady; and then he will see the face of God. Then he will go to hell with the rest of the world that refuses to recognize a wholly sovereign creator.

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