MATCH | REVIEW

Writer/ Director, Stephen Belber, adapts his own stage play, MATCH, for the cinema and scores Captain Professor Picard Xavier aka Sir Patrick Stewart in a dream lead performance. MATCH is a stunning character study I got to witness at this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival in Sydney. I was sold on Stewart being in it and could watch him sell baby nappies for 90mins on film, you know it would be a glorious performance, but lucky for me I got to see him perform in his high gear, and what I could consider one, if not the best performance, of his career. It is not currently available online for purchase but it will be, keep your eye out, it is way worth it. It is released by IFC Films in the U.S. and runs for 93mins, if I was to rate it, I would go with an MA15+.

 

MATCH MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
MATCH | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

I went to see MATCH without reading the synopsis – the feature image is all I knew – Patrick Stewart and ballet dancers, screening at a gay film festival – I knew I couldn’t go wrong and I most definitely wasn’t, however, the image of the Stewart with ballet dancers represents the first five minutes of the film. I assumed it would be set in a ballet school and Stewart would play the flamboyant master teacher. I was close, but no cigar. Tobi Powell (Stewart) is the most incredible lifelong ballet performer and now instructor at Julliard, but while this opening sequence, offering glimpses of Manhattan from the window and setting the scene for a man in arts in New York, we leave this world and (excluding a brief scene in Tobi’s favourite Spanish restaurant) the entire movie is filmed in Tobi Powell’s (Stewart’s) modest 70s styled older aged gentleman bohemian apartment.

Stewart is settled in his ways, a man who is proud of his past that has dedicated his entire life and soul to ballet, he is well past his prime and loves to bask in the nostalgia of the yesteryears. He declines an invite to socialise with colleagues and instead heads out to meet up with a young lady, Lisa (Carla Gugino), who wishes to interview him for her dissertation on dance history. Lisa brings her tight-lipped, inarticulate husband along and after a brief while we start to see all is not what it appears. Sadly, Tobi does not see this as he is basking in recounting the glamorous and debaucherous tales of his past and that of ballet.

 

MATCH MOVIE IMAGE
MATCH | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | TOBI POWELL (PATRICK STEWART) COMPOSING HIMSELF IN MEDITATION ON HIS ROOF

 

The play debuted in 2004 with Frank Langella in the role and I could imagine his performance as being remarkable but Stewart owns this role, he is sublime and, while a straight man has been rumoured to be gay for years, added to the rumours are the fun he and his best mate, Magneto Gandalf Sir Ian McKellan always seem to have together, McKellan is an out and truly proud member of the brotherhood who also officiated Stewart’s wedding to a very female lady. Stewart is a master of stage and film, with nuanced performances common ground in his repertoire. Tobi’s enthusiasm and personality are brilliant, the pride and excitement of reliving the past with the knowledge that in certain circles he is a legend see him open up his joy out of his isolated, and somewhat lonely life, I can actually relate to him to some extent being so set in my ways of a single life. But in Tobi’s past he was a party-animal ballet whore who partied with the greats and danced with even greater. And it is this past that Lisa and Mike Davis (Matthew Lillard) want to dig deeper into, they want to know about the sex and partying of the past.

“So, you want to know about the fucking?”

 

And that quote is the turning of this movie that lifts the layers off fun, games, joints and nostalgia and turns it into a somewhat uncomfortable and much darker tale, a tale that sees the nostalgic bravado of Tobi destroyed, but at the same time turns the movie into a superior character study of unravelled past.

I have always loved Gugino, (SIN CITY, SPY KIDS, THE WATCHMEN), she has a difficult dual role to play, one for her performance alongside Stewart as a younger dissertation writer and the other, the wife to a very angry man hating his life and blaming everyone in his quest for the truth. A truth that allows the title of the movie to make sense by the time the credits role :). Her part is torn because she sees both sides of this story, and unlike her troubled husband, is filled with empathy for the wrong they are doing this elder man who has left his past way back in the past except for fond memories of the good times.

 

 

MATCH MOVIE IMAGE
MATCH | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | TOBI POWELL (PATRICK STEWART) GETTING VERY DEEP WITH LISA (CARLA GUGINO)

 

Speaking of the angry man, Matthew Lillard is incredibly powerful in his performance and his and Stewart’s interactions are a treat to watch, a long way Lillard has come since being the little fucker who loved stalking Sidney Prescott and stabbing Drew Barrymore back in 1996 in SCREAM, and if memory serves me right he was also Shaggy in the Scooby Doo movie? His performance is definitely note-worthy, especially considering he steps into the shoes of Ray Liotta who played Mike opposite Langella onstage.

If you are expecting Professor X or Captain Picard this movie will not be for you, but if you love watching incredible performances that are dialogue heavy and delve into the human psyche then hunt this one down, it is worth it for Stewart’s sublime performance.

 

4 and a Half Pops