"Patrick Stewart is undoubtedly the name to this film, and being the screen treasure that he is, he doesn’t disappoint"
Family matters are complicated no matter how you spin it - at least that’s what an ageing ballet teacher learns in playwright Stephen Belber’s newest directorial feature Match. Following on from his lacklustre screen debut Management in 2008, Belber has drawn from his stage writing in adapting his 2004 play of the same name that excels in complex character building and benefits from some great performances from its actors.
The story follows Tobias Powell (Patrick Stewart), an outspoken and theatrical ballet teacher living in relatively self-imposed solitude in northern Manhattan. He nervously agrees to break his pattern to give an interview to a woman called Lisa (Carla Gugino), who is researching for her dissertation on the ballet scene of the 60s. She’s accompanied by her humourless husband Mike (Matthew Lillard), whose threatening demeanour seems unexplained until Tobias is faced with a truth he thought had been forgotten.
With the film being an adaptation of a play, it unsurprisingly feels like a very simple, stagey movie. A good example of a similar film would be Roman Polanski’s film Carnage in 2011, also a screen adaptation with the same characteristics of a limited set, small cast and a focus on character development through conflict and conversation. Therefore, it won’t be to everyone’s taste: those who only like their blockbusters and extravagant set pieces will most likely come away disappointed.
Those people who enjoy the simplicity of detailed character studies however should find something in Match to entertain. Space and time is given to let revelations unfold slowly, keeping it compelling whilst rarely feeling like it’s dragging. A lot of what keeps the film fascinating too is that when conflict arises you’ll find yourself wondering who is right, and where your allegiance should lie.
Patrick Stewart is undoubtedly the name to this film, and being the screen treasure that he is, he doesn’t disappoint. Tobias is a difficult character to keep sympathetic at times but with his booming Shakespearean voice, Stewart lends wit to the script’s witticisms and real pain when his character bares his soul. Carla Gugino, of Watchmen fame, is a surprise highlight of the film though, outshining her two co-stars with her trembling facade as she struggles to balance two people who are very close to cracking whilst keeping herself intact.
The film does tie itself up a little too quickly and neatly unfortunately, and a small twist at the end is less surprising than the writer expects you to find it. Match is never going to reach a huge audience but for those who enjoy the simplicity of theatre, it should satisfy on a day when the curtain is down. The character development is expertly done in a way that betrays the Belber’s playwright credentials and the actors really do give their all to the parts. The odd pacing issues and a shaky ending do let the film down but ultimately Match more than lives up to its main purpose as a simple character study.