Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Matchstick Men

Matchstick Men; Crime/ Drama/ Comedy, USA, 2003; D: Ridley Scott, S: Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell

Roy Waller and his colleague Frank are two con artists who have been double crossing people for years due to their fake lottery puppet agency. Roy, though extremely clever, is deeply fragile due to his constant phobias and anxieties, which he suppresses with pills. After Frank suggests him a psychiatrist, Dr. Klein, Roy suddenly gets the urge to see his ex girlfriend whom he hasn't seen for 14 years. One 14-year old girl approaches him and introduces herself as Angela, his daughter. He enjoys her company and his phobias disappear. After he involves her in his latest con, the double crossed tycoon Frechette finds her in Roy's home. She shoots Frechette while Roy gets knocked out unconscious. He wakes up and gives Dr. Klein his safe code, only to later find out that Frank actually double crossed him and that Angela was just an actress. A year later, he actually meets her again as a carpet salesman and enjoys with his former girlfriend, who is now pregnant.

"Matchstick Men" - a story where "As Good as It Gets" meets "Paper Moon" meets "Ocean's 11" - is an unassuming and simply clever little film, the best Ridley Scott has directed in 20 years. A lot of credit goes to the impressive novel by Eric Garcia and the tight screenplay by Ted and Nicholas Griffin, who show a con artist from a humane perspective which gains most of its intensity thanks to the touching central plot revolving around a father-daughter relationship, but also from the central theme of the film that echoes "Being There": your own life is only what you think it is because no one has the grasp of true reality. Yet that also means that it is in your power to change your emotions. This is clearly visible in the unusual, but emotional ending where the main protagonist Roy (an understated performance by Nicolas Cage) was hit by a negative event, but managed to absorb it, make something positive out of it and continue with his life - the twist ending causes great uproar from the viewers, yet the authors decided to take that chance. Some of the great little humorous 'slice-of-life' moments are when Roy meets the 14-year old Angela for the first time and she knows he is a con-artist, mentioning the word "police" in a restaurant, upon which two police officers stand up from their table or when Roy wants to stand in a long line in a store on purpose, because he has a small crush on a cashier there. Also, how often do you get an opportunity to see a Hollywood film where the main hero simply admits that he hasn't been in a relationship for over a decade? Some moments could have been elaborated, as to not turn into ellipses as they did, yet as a whole this is a refreshing film.


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