Stephen Belber made his debut on Broadway with the original one room play ‘Match’ back in 2004, and now, having some experience in the world of film, has decided to experiment with the script once again in a whole different light, a different angle and with an entirely different cast. This includes a few subtle changes, as Belber notes, from the original work.
Match is a story told over the course of a day, mostly, within the New York City apartment of one the most famous dancers of the 1960’s. Sir Patrick Stewart plays said dancer, named Tobi Powell, who is unlike so many characters that Stewart has ever played. Stewart plays Powell with a glimmer of nostalgia, eccentricity and a chip on his shoulder, and, as you would expect from any of his performances, he commands all eyes upon him by the way he performs his dialogue with his influential fluidity. Powell, as a character, is refreshing as he is aggressively witty and somehow endearingly brash. You get the point, blah blah blah, Patrick Stewart is amazing, blah. However, there’s more to Match than this excellent performance.
As mentioned, Tobi Powell is a former dancer with a rather muddled history, and in addition to Stewart’s character acting, it’s brilliantly unfolded in Belber’s writing. The structure of the film, at least in the way it opens, is Tobi preparing to meet with Michael and Lisa, a couple from Seattle, played by Carla Gugino (Spy Kids, Sin City) and Matthew Lillard (Scream, The Descendants). They arrive in New York hoping to get a dissertation from Tobi to fill in some history about the culture and names in dancing when he was breaking out as a star. Learning about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the dance culture is not the only reason they’ve wanted to meet Tobi, however, but as the marketing of the film seems to not spell out what those reasons are, they ought to be left to be as much of a twist for the general audiences as it was for those who saw the premier or the broadway show.
Needless to say, the performances from Gugino and Lillard are probably at the best they’ve ever been, as the story unweaves into something complex and emotional. The tension boils, and Stewart plays as both the flame prodding it, and the water that helps to douse it.
In true one-room-play fashion, Match plays out in fully arched acts, organically separated by yelling and the slamming of doors, and the audience truly feels they’ve been in Tobi’s apartment as exhaustively and as long as they would watching the stage performance, and much of this derives from the chemistry between Stewart, Lillard and Gugino.
Despite a foul mouthed, pot smoking old man in Tobi Powell, Match’s characters are sweet and endearing, at times uproariously funny and frustrating.
Match is a performance film, and a damn well made one at that, with a sour twist that is at it’s most bitter when revealed at the moment it’s meant to. You don’t need to understand dance to enjoy it, nor do you don’t need to understand Broadway plays, so those should not be excuses to miss out on Match. No, what you need to enjoy in this little film is an understanding of what it means to be human, and the painful joy of fixing the wrongs in life.