In “Match,” Patrick Stewart plays Tobias, a ballet teacher at Julliard who gets accused of being the absentee father of Mike (Matthew Lillard) a cop from Seattle. When we first meet Tobias—Tobi, as he likes to be called—he is still as enthusiastic about ballet dancing as he was back in the sixties, providing encouragement to his class of aspiring dancers. Outside Julliard he lives a rather solitary life in a small New York apartment but from his cheerful and upbeat attitude he appears to be doing just fine. When Mike and his wife Lisa (Carla Gugino) show up at his doorstep, pretending to interview him for a fictitious dissertation about dance in the 1960’s—they’re actually trying to coax him into admitting that he’s Mike’s father-- he’s more than willing to share his wealth of information. He’s eccentric and flamboyant, prone to rambling and oddly sentimental—he holds on to his toenail clippings in a glass jar on the top of a cabinet-- but also extremely passionate about his line of work. In other words, he seems to be full of life, even at an old age.
Playing Captain Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Magneto in the “X Men” movies, Stewart has become a big celebrity personality over the years, so it‘s kind of strange to see him star in a low budget film like this—written and directed by Stephen Belber—playing such a pedestrian character, but he should do it more often. As Tobi, he gives an endearing, multilayered performance that only becomes more compelling and authentic. We see that Tobi’s cheerful, eccentric attitude is a façade, masking deep-seated feelings of pain and regret that become more pronounced as the movie goes on. Stewart is the best part about “Match” but the other two performances are also strong. Particularly Lillard, who initially comes off as stubborn and kind of a jerk—in fact he retains that demeanor for most of the movie—but in the end you can’t really blame Mike. He’s also trying to hold back immense feelings of pain and neglect.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t stand as high as the performances. This isn’t to say it’s bad but just that Belber’s script doesn’t have much depth or substance to it. With the exception of a few scenes at the beginning and at the end, the action is confined to Tobi’s apartment building, allowing for the movie to be tense and claustrophobic. When Mike and Lisa interview Tobias, things start out calm and simple. Gradually, however, as their questions become increasingly fishy and personal, the situation starts to heat up. The water boils over, emotions run high. The situation becomes increasingly tense and uncomfortable for the audience. Again, none of this is bad, in fact some of it can be entertaining; however, when we get to the picture’s conclusion there’s not much to mull over or reflect upon. And not much to sustain repeat viewings either. Still, thanks to the performances—mainly Stewart’s—“Match” is worthwhile; you won’t gain much from it but you won’t lose anything either.