MATCH a Fine Story Matched by Equally Fine Acting

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Match Patrick Stewart Matthew Lillard Carla Gugino Critical Blast Dennis Russo

The root story behind MATCH is a simple one, but therein lies its mystery as well.

Patrick Stewart stars as Tobi Powell, an aging, single, Manhattan ballet instructor and former dancer who is forced to confront his past -- willingly at first, and forcibly later on -- when a young couple, Lisa and Mike Davis (Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard), from Seattle interrupt his life under the guise of wanting to interview him about his colorful life as a dancer back in the 1960’s.

I tend to love movies that feature a limited main cast in a confined set area (mostly Tobi’s apartment), where the story and acting are so strong that you not only lose track of the time but you're unaware of the limited surroundings. MATCH is a textbook example of this for me. While, yes, there are times when we are not in Tobi’s apartment, and there are some limited interactions with other people, those times are more to set up the story that plays out in the apartment between the three of them.

The movie starts out in the dance studio, then shifts rather quickly to a quaint city diner where Tobi reveals the basis of the story, that he is going to be interviewed, and then moves on to his apartment where they settle in.

I have always been a fan of Patrick Stewart, but admittedly almost all of my knowledge of his acting revolves around STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and X-MEN. But whether or not you’re a fan of those shows, there is no denying his acting ability. The way he delivers his lines is without peer, and I can envision him giving a stellar performance in any role, be it on TV, Broadway, or Elizabethan theater. Even with the predisposition I have of his acting abilities, I was still not prepared for his performance here.

To hear him say some of the things he says in this role was both at times shocking and revealing: shocking in that I never thought I would hear him curse and talk about sexual things in a movie, and revealing in that even with such challenging dialogue he was able to put it across in a way that the dialogue was not out of place or vulgar, but seemed perfectly in context.

I found a lot of the dialogue and actions humorous in this movie -- not so much so in that blatant jokes are written into it for comedy’s sake, but the dialogue and delivery of it at just the right time with perfect inflection makes the humor easy to see, and works so well in this rather bittersweet comedy with serious undertones.

But -- and it’s a big but here -- all the credit is not to be lauded solely upon on Mr. Stewart. Both Carla Gugino and Mathew Lillard deliver equally impressive performances that are right on par with Mr. Stewart’s, and it’s their portrayals of their roles that make Patrick’s work; the three of them play off each other so well. I especially liked the way that Lisa and Mike interacted and, oftentimes carrying on two separate conversations as things heated up. Mike is hot-tempered, excessively forceful, and he doesn’t like beating around the bush. In order to ascertain the information he and Lisa are hoping to get, he is trying his best, however brutish it comes across at times, to be nice. Matthew Lillard plays this role to the hilt and I can think of no other actor anywhere that could have played it better.

I’m not going to spill the beans as to what the couple is after, as I see no point in spoiling the movie for you. Trying to guess what they are after is part of the fun.

The story is not that deep, though, and it’s not long before anyone will probably figure out what the information is they are after before it is divulged. (Don’t worry; you won’t have to wait to the end to find out.) In fact, this is almost a two-part movie in that half of it takes place without them knowing the answers, and the other half with them dealing with them. Even then, there are still a couple of twists along the way that you might not see coming.

Despite some of the outlandish interactions going on in this movie, I found it very touching. The ending will surprise you not so much by what is said, but by what you’ll feel for the characters as you watch them. All too often movies based on plays (this is a movie adaption of the play by Stephen Belber) sacrifice nuance and passion in favor of the cinematic camera angles and big-screen bombast. But here I think we have a movie that combines the best of both worlds, with a fine case and a story that stays true to the writer's vision.

MATCH didn’t disappoint me on any level. For me, the story was deep enough; deep enough so that I could follow along and not have to wrack my brains to try and remember every little twist and turn in order for it to make sense, and not so deep that it had to be dragged out to 2+ hours in order to get all the details crammed into it. At just over 90 minutes, the story is played out perfectly and I never once looked down at my watch because I couldn't take my eyes off the performances.

This is definitely a movie for adults because of language and adult subject matter (never thought I’d say those words in the same column that has the name Patrick Stewart, but there you have it), but without a doubt one of the best movies I’ve seen this year: Game, Set… and MATCH

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0