In 1995 Patrick Stewart played a flamboyantly gay character in the wonderful Jeffrey. Now he’s returned to the LGBT arena for Match. He plays aging Juilliard ballet teacher Tobi, who agrees to meet with a woman called Lisa (Carla Gugino) to help with her dissertation about dance in 1960s New York.
Lisa arrives at Tobi’s apartment with her cop husband, Mike (Matthew Lillard). The interview initially seems to go well, until Tobi begins to get suspicious that there is something else going on. It becomes clear that Lisa and Mike are there trying to figure out whether Tobi is Mike’s father, as while he’s lived most of his life as a gay man, in the past Tobi has slept with women, including Mike’s mother. If Tobi is Mike’s dad, it doesn’t appear it’s going to be an easy family reunion.
With its three characters and being set almost completely in Tobi’s apartment, there’s undoubtedly a sense here of this being a play that happens to have been put on film. You can certainly tell why the likes of Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard wanted to get involved, as it’s the kind of setup that’s a dream for actors, ensuring that everything is close up on them and how they portray the character.
For the large part they do it well, successfully drawing you into a story of a man looking for answers about his parent, an aging guy forced to confront the decisions he made decades before and the woman who ends up almost being the referee in the middle. Stewart in particular is fantastic – as you’d expect – helped by the fact he has the most complex and interesting character.
It’s only Lillard who has more difficulties, not due to any fault on his part but because in order to add a bit of drama and a sense of danger to proceedings, his character is forced to take things a little too far, pushing this small scale, intimate drama towards the edge of incredibility. It generally manages to pull itself back, but it does pull the viewer out of the experience slightly, meaning that Match isn’t quite it could have been.
It is however nice to see a film where the main character is gay/bisexual and it is an important aspect of the movie, but where it flows through the movie under the surface rather than it either being absolutely central or completely irrelevant.
While some reviews have suggested the film has lots of twists and surprises, to be honest it’s not too difficult to figure out where it’s headed, but while the film’s drama is sometimes a little too heightened, when it calms down it’s generally nicely handled, and the ending works extremely well. Each of the characters is shown to be both the hero and villain of their own lives, and the end of the movie brings that out really nicely. Indeed, despite its occasional problems in the middle, the denouement is extremely good, ensuring it’s worth sticking with all the way through.
Overall Verdict: Despite its tendency towards going over the top, and the limitations of its setup, Match is worth a look, largely thanks to Patrick Stewart and a plot that measures its excesses with subtlety when it needs it most.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac