Reviewed by: D.J. Williams
obsessive-compulsives / Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
seeking help from psychoanalysts/psychiatrists
cheating people through scams / con artists
living a life of crime
the real consequences for sin
real father daughter relationships
|Featuring:||Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce McGill, Bruce Altman|
|Producer:||Jack Rapke, Ridley Scott, Steve Starkey, Ted Griffin, Sean Bailey|
The film is rated PG-13 for thematic elements (Roy and Angela’s relationship eventually faces troubling circumstances), violence (one non-graphic, yet intense scene), some sexual content (a meeting between Frank, Roy, and a prospective con target takes place is an exotic club, with scantily clad dancers performing, plus some dialogue), and language (pretty run-of-the-mill PG-13 fare, with one f-word included).
Although the objectionable content is average for a PG-13 film, the themes, the touching father-daughter relationship, and the emphasis on family that the film portrays are far better than today’s average film—thus my “Better than Average” morality rating. In the end, the film does not uphold the strip-club meetings, the characters’ vices, and conning others out of their cash. The film portrays the repercussions of that life and emphasizes that what’s really important is family and investing your life not in financial pursuits, but in the ones you love. In a film I would recommend expressly for older teens and adults, this is a terrific film with a lot to say.
The film includes a beautiful portrayal of a father-daughter relationship, which is really the heart of the story and dictates much of the other action. For that reason alone, this would be a good film to check out; the overall messages of the story are very positive. We wouldn’t recommend the film to those under 13, but honestly they wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. This is a great film for teens and adults, however, and viewers should watch with discretion.
After nine months of movies in 2003, there’s yet to be a truly brilliant film. We’ve had tremendous emotion (Seabiscuit), an animated masterpiece (Finding Nemo), a terrific war drama (Tears of the Sun), and an exciting summer adventure movie (Pirates of the Caribbean), but all of them pale in comparison to some of the truly magnificent films released in the first nine months of 2002. All that has now changed with the release of Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men”, the engrossing tale of a neurotic con man who meets the daughter he didn’t know he had, and hands down the best film so far this year.
“Matchstick Men” tells the story of Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage), an obsessive-compulsive con-man with as many tricks as twitches. He and partner Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell) have just pulled another job with ease, adding to their well-lined pockets. Things really get moving when Roy runs out of his medication one afternoon, and then discovers that his shrink has left town. Frank sets him up with a new psychiatrist (Bruce Altman) who, unlike the other, forces Roy to actually talk to him to get the pills.
Through their sessions, the topic comes up of Roy’s ex-wife, who left him when she was pregnant with their first child fourteen years prior. After Dr. Klein contacts her, he tells Roy that he does indeed have a daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman), who wants to meet him. They do meet, and the film then follows their growing relationship as Roy and Frank prepare to pull the big one.
Scott flawlessly directs a tremendous film that is outside of his usual mode. The acclaimed director of films such as Alien, G.I. Jane, and Black Hawk Down is famous for engrossing movies about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. “Matchstick Men” is much smaller in scope and more deeply personal in its character development than Scott’s other work, but is just as well crafted.
The brilliant cinematography plunges us headlong into Roy’s world, and the character development (equally credited to Nicholas and Ted Griffin’s ingenious screenplay) is such that we deeply care about the characters, especially Roy and Angela. The story of their unfolding and growing relationship is so engrossing that as they are caught up in the rapidly unfolding plot, our emotions are completely invested in every twist and turn. This is a film equally brilliant and beautiful, engaging our minds while simultaneously pulling at our hearts.
A large part of that is owed to the performances. Nicolas Cage totally loses himself in the role of Roy. He’s incredibly believable (and entertaining) as both a neurotic and a loving father, personalizing the character and drawing the audience in. One part comedic, one part dramatic, all extraordinary, Cage deserves an Oscar nomination for delivering the best performance so far this year. He’s perfectly complimented by Lohman as the self-determined daughter reaching out to her dad.
The 24-year-old actress is 100% convincing as a 14-year-old, and gives a depth to the character that is usually missing in teenage characters. Rounding out the solid cast are Rockwell as the cool, dry, partner, great character actor Bruce McGill (The Legend of Bagger Vance, TV’s “MacGyver”) as the target of Roy and Frank’s big con, and Altman as Roy’s new shrink. The actors take an Oscar-worthy script and fill it out with a cast of characters that sucks the audience headfirst into the film.
In the end, at the core of the dry, witty humor and the twists and turns of the script, “Matchstick Men” is simply the story of a father and a daughter, and how each impacts the other. One of the most beautiful portrayals of a parental relationship ever beautifully concealed inside a brilliant con-movie, “Matchstick Men” truly has something for everyone in the audience who will venture out to see it.
Ridley Scott has stepped out on a limb and made a film that crosses genres, is introspective, and among his greatest work. As the kickoff to the fall movie season, “Matchstick Men” sets a high standard for all the highly anticipated films to come. If they can match Scott’s masterpiece, the last three months of the 2003 cinematic year will leave the first nine in the dust.
Violence: Moderate | Profanity: Heavy | Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.