Review by Robert Trate
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard
Directed by: Stephen Belber
Running time: 92 Minutes
Year of release: 2015
Jeffrey (1995) was the first thing I saw Patrick Stewart in post Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was a huge fan of STTNG because of his performance. As an actor, he grabs you and pulls you into the moment. If that is the bridge of the Enterprise or on Broadway, Sir Patrick will always get my attention.
Match is a film based on the Tony-Nominated play by Stephen Belber. Belber directs his own adaptation and Stewart plays the role of Tobi, a Juilliard dance professor. Tobi is being interviewed by Lisa (Carla Gugino) and Mike (Matthew Lillard) for a thesis. When the questions start to get personal, we learn that Mike is actually looking for his estranged father who abandoned him and his mother. Mike believes that man to be Tobi.
This is a small film. Outside of establishing Tobi’s life as an instructor and Mike’s scientific research, the majority of the film takes place in a small New York apartment. Stewart is not the Captain of the Enterprise here, nor is he Professor X of the X-Men. Despite his face being synonymous with those roles, Tobi makes his way into the film as a tour de force of someone who loves life and the life he leads. Each and every moment is relished here by Stewart and if not for the film medium being viewed, it is easy to see him playing this character on stage. Tobi isn’t perfect, as we learn, and hides his regrets very well.
The surprise of the film is Matthew Lillard. Yes, the man who has taken over the mantle of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He is dark and painfully tragic as Mike. Lillard delivers a slow boil in his early interactions with Tobi, yet when he is ready, he explodes and it is difficult to watch. It was as if I was watching a family member being assaulted and could do nothing to help. Not something you would expect from a man who says “Zoinks” as both the real life and cartoon version of the same character. There is obviously more to Lillard, and a performance such as this will yield broader characters than the ones he has been playing.
The heart of the movie is Carla Gugino’s Lisa. She refuses to leave Tobi alone after Mike gets what he came for. It is in these moments where truths are revealed for both Tobi and Lisa. We see the toll that Mike’s life has started to take on Lisa. Tobi is ready to reveal all that he knows to her and with Mike gone, we wrestle with Tobi being right or wrong.
Dramas such as this are always hard to watch. More often than not, we turn to movies for a break in reality and would rather solve a mystery with a talking dog or visit a far off world. Here, the performance is your break from reality. Never will you find three actors so submersed in their characters that you cannot help but feel as if you are a part of their story. This film hurt on a emotional level that most films can never achieve. A truly great story if ever there was one.