Best known for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and Professor Charles Xavier in the "X-Men" movies, Sir Patrick Stewart gives one of his greatest performances yet in "Match."
Stewart's new film debuted at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival to mixed reviews, but his performance stood out among the criticisms. His role as aging Juilliard dance instructor Tobi Powell is tailor-made for Stewart, as he commands the screen in the film adaptation of the eponymous 2004 play by Stephen Belber. Belber makes his directorial debut on the project, which might explain why the movie is an overall simple screen version of his theatrical production.
Still, dynamite performances by Stewart and his co-stars Matthew Lillard and Carla Gugino bring the stage dialogue to life and tie comedy and drama up in a nice little package.
"Match" tells the story of Tobi (Stewart), a former dancer and current professor with a colorful past, who is asked to be interviewed by a woman, Lisa, and her husband, Mike, (Gugino and Lillard) for a dissertation she's writing about the history of dance in New York in the 1960s. But as the interview proceeds, it becomes increasingly clear that the couple has an ulterior motive, which involves an explosive revelation.
Through extreme close-ups -- which are used quite a lot in the film -- Belber tries to delve deep into the minds of his protagonists, who do an incredible job of hiding their internal emotions (while withholding pivotal information). Lillard shines as Mike, an apparent hard-ass who always appears to be on the edge of a mental explosion, opposite Gugino, who plays his soft-spoken, attentive and supposedly depressed wife. But again, their performances don't compare to the nonstop delight of Stewart as he delivers one-liner after one-liner while still being able to break your heart when it comes to the more sensitive moments of the story.
Stewart's comedic timing also creates a unique flow in the film, as his character discusses his love of party mix, weed, finger nails and, ahem, cunnilingus. (Yes, if you need a definitive reason to see "Match," just know that Sir Patrick goes on a hilarious, at times inappropriate, rant about oral sex.)
"He gave one of the greatest performances ever in this movie," Lillard told the crowd at the BMCC Theater in Manhattan during a Q&A following the screening last week, "and if you ask me, he should win an Oscar."
Stewart smiled at Lillard and his kind words, but the beloved actor had nothing to say about award season. Instead, he graciously stated that he was blessed to be a part of "Match" and that making the film was one of the best experiences of his life. Were it to happen, an Oscar nomination for Stewart would be his first. We're pulling for him to come out on top next year; here's guessing his dear friend, Sir Ian McKellen, will be too.