Patrick Stewart`s name has, over the last few decades, become synonymous with a handful of iconic roles. From Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek The Next Generation and Charles Xavier in the X-Men films (a role, let’s face it, he was born to play), to voicing Susie Swanson and Avery Bullock in the Family Guy universe, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Stewart is in fact a classically trained actor, having first taken to the stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company half a century ago. It was a pleasant surprise, as such, that Mr. Stewart was to return to a more serious role in his latest film, Match, written and directed by legendary playwright Stephen Belber.
Stewart plays Tobi Powell, an aging teacher of ballet at Juilliard School of Dance, Music and Drama in New York. Reclusive and eccentric, he is approached by a young couple allegedly doing research on a dissertation about his life in dance. Things quickly become apparent that the couple have ulterior motives however, and Powell discovers that he may in fact have fathered the young man during his drug-fueled wilderness years.
Casting director Eve Battaglia has done a fine job in recruiting the players for Belber touching and eloquent script, with Stewart putting in an intelligent and highly watchable performance as the charming old queen, obsessed with knitting and collecting his own fingernail clippings. Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Night at the Museum) meanwhile gives a fantastic performance as the ersatz reporter. The scene in which Stewart encourages the former dancer to improve her ballet stance is wonderfully touching, and a beautiful example of the pair`s skill in their art.
The real revelation, however, is Matthew Lillard. For so long, Lillard has been the goofball, the stoner, but his portrayal here of the abandoned child is as convincing as it is heart-wrenching. Beginning as a homophobic, misogynistic cop, Lillard`s Mike gradually comes to terms with his parentage, eventually forming a tolerant relationship with his father. Gone is Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, and instead we are presented with a mature and emotional performance of which Lillard should be proud.
Sander Rosenthal`s score punctuates the film with aplomb; his delightful, meandering composition is aptly emotional without ever feeling over the top, an Belber, this being only his second motion picture, has excelled in bringing the film to life. His theatrical roots are clear, and one can’t help but think this would make an equally wonderful stage play.
Funny, touching, and utterly engaging, Match is a gentle but sure tour-de-force displaying the aptitude of three very fine actors. I shall be looking forward to seeing the further works of Mr. Belber with rapt anticipation.
4 / 5
Dir: Stephen Belber
Scr: Stephen Belber
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Matthew Lillard, Carla Gugino
Prd: David Permut, Matt Ratner, Rick Rosenthal
DOP: Luke Geissbuhler
Music: Sander Rosenthal
Run Time: 92mins
Match is out on DVD and VOD on 12th October