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Match Point

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Chris’s Motives

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By Amir Faress • 12/25/19

Match Point is clearly inspired by A Place in the Sun (itself based on a novel). Comparing the two films from the perspective of the motivations of their leading characters (as it relates to contemplating murder), the latter stands out with more clarity as better put together.

The two protagonists are good-looking commoners who find themselves in an affluent surrounding. Beyond this similarity, the two cannot be any more different. In Match Point, Chris is an extremely smart, athletic young commoner whose idea of fun is listening to opera. He enters an aristocratic world and quickly ascends to the top, his meteoric rise owing primarily to his own merits, though favoritism also played a part. George in A Place in the Sun, in contrast, has no outstanding qualities. If he ever ascends to the top and rubs shoulders with those in the higher echelons of society, nepotism and favoritism will have played a major role.

Both characters find themselves in a similar situation when a past relationship comes to haunt them: a wrong woman bears their child, and they decide to do the unthinkable and kill the ex-lover in order to preserve the status quo. Chris’s motivation for doing so, however, does not have the requisite foundation.

When faced with the decision, Chris has more or less completed his ascent to the top and has reason to think he cannot hold on to his new lifestyle if his former lover chooses to carry her pregnancy to term. His marriage will most likely collapse, with his wife doubly outraged to find out her husband was about to have a love child with her brother’s ex-girlfriend. Moreover, being employed by his father-in-law, Chris’s fortunes are tied to his marriage. A turbulence at home is bound to jeopardize his position at work.

All of this is abundantly clear. What is not clear is Chris’s attachment to his new lifestyle. Ascending the socio-economic ladder never seemed to be Chris’s driving force, nor did he seem to get any pleasure out of it. The fact that he calls life “tragic” even after acquiring everything that the new lifestyle had to offer says something about Chris’s regard for it. Even if there is a level of attachment to his new lifestyle, Chris – unlike George – is not faced with a binary choice.

George owes it all to his uncle. Were he to be dismissed from work, forces of social gravity would inevitably pull him back to the bottom of the society. This cannot be further from reality in the case of Chris, as he had risen to the top primarily on his own merits and has little reason to think he could not replicate his success.

Also, whereas in George’s case murdering his former lover would allow him to stay with the person he loved, the opposite applies to Chris, who enjoys his lover’s company much more than his wife’s. The choice before him (at least when first faced with the dilemma) is whether to stay in a loveless relationship or marry for love. True, walking out would leave his wife broken-hearted, but a person who not only contemplates but also carries out murder could hardly be inhibited by such scruples.

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