PLOT: Tobi (Patrick Stewart) a renowned ballet instructor agrees to be interviewed by a grad student (Carla Gugino) and her husband (Matthew Lillard) but as the afternoon goes on, skeletons are dragged out of the closet and Tobi must face the transgressions of his youth.
REVIEW: While most of us can't help but know Patrick Stewart best from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and X-MEN, it's worth remembering that the man has had a long and varied career. Incredibly, Stewart was forty-seven when he landed the part as Picard (although he seems to have stopped aging somewhere around STAR TREK: GENERATIONS). Still, most of his film roles these days tend to cater to his huge sci-fi fanbase. That's why, in many ways, it's a bit of a treat to see Stewart try something so far removed from his more famous roles.
MATCH offers Stewart the chance to show of his chops in a big way. While MATCH is more something I'd call interesting rather than truly good, it can't be denied that Stewart is excellent in a part that's a far cry from how we know him, but fits him like a glove nonetheless. Playing a bisexual, aging ballet instructor, Stewart's Tobi comes off as a gregarious, larger-than-life guy, although it's quickly revealed that his flamboyance is maybe covering up something a little more deep-seated, and that all is not as well with Tobi as it seems.
Based on his own play, Stephen Belber's film is very much in the tradition of something by a guy like Neil LaBute. Outside of a few establishing moments, the entire film more-or-less takes place in Tobi's New York apartment, with Stewart, Gugino and Lillard being the only ones on-screen (save for a few minor parts). Not much effort has been made to make MATCH cinematic, but in a way it doesn't matter as all Belber really had to do was unleash Stewart and let him dominate, which he does. Strictly as a Patrick Stewart showcase, MATCH succeeds. Early on, he chews scenery by adopting a somewhat effeminate manner that puts off Lillard's straight-arrow cop, but later reveals himself to be far more jaded and introspective than he's allowing himself to come off, once some old skeletons are taken out of the closet.
Alas, Tobi's secret winds up being fairly routine, but perhaps that's a good thing as that makes him a relatable character. Anyone who studied the arts has no doubt had a professor like Tobi, in that he seems like a guy that thoroughly enjoyed his privileged seat in the sexual revolution, even if, in his old age, he may not be entirely fulfilled.
By contrast, Lillard and Gugino's parts are far more routine. Lillard's come a long way from his days as Shaggy, and he's effective as the homophobic, aggravated cop, even if he does feel a bit like a stock character at first. Gugino's a little less interesting, with her not having a heck of a lot to do until later in the film except try to keep the peace between Lillard and Stewart. Once she has some time alone with Stewart things pick up, and Gugino as always is very good.
While MATCH is still a relatively minor film, it gives us a rare opportunity to see Patrick Stewart center stage, with him getting to show off all the different facets of his talent, from the early scenes where he (deliberately) hams it up, to the later, more introspective parts. Heck, we even get to see him affect an American accent (and it's good!). For Stewart alone, MATCH is worth checking out.