Film

Patrick Stewart Is Great in Match, a Stellar Indie Drama

by

Writer-director Stephen Belber’s inspiriting, generous Match is so good that it’s like some kind of trick. In what can only be characterized as a verdant collaboration between the director and the irreplaceable Patrick Stewart, the film offers a vivid portrait of a huge-hearted Juilliard dance professor named Tobi Powell who loves his art and his students, but who has withdrawn from his friends and colleagues. He’s agreed to an interview by Lisa (Carla Gugino) and her husband, Mike (Matthew Lillard), purportedly for her dissertation on the history of dance in the 1960s. But as their conversation progresses through several lengthy, discursive scenes, it becomes clear that the couple has a completely different agenda. As a man, Tobi has much to recommend him: He’s convivial, extroverted, still passionate about his craft. Unlike his contemporaries, he refuses to sleep with his adoring students. He knits spectacularly beautiful sweaters. But he’s also a self-indulgent baby boomer whose memories of the sexually promiscuous Sixties seem, at first, to come without the baggage of responsibility for his actions. Tobi’s voice is musical and precise, his body language graceful and open, and Stewart is absolutely on fire with him. Lillard and Gugino rise to the challenge of Stewart’s character work with a pair of emotional and sharply observed performances; Lisa’s support for her husband is shot through with barely suppressed anguish. Mike’s violent actions in the second act constitute the low point of his character’s arc, and Lillard transforms him with a surprising turn of warmth. And director Belber ultimately delivers a film as joyful and charismatic as its protagonist.