The practice of adapting plays to both the small and big screen is nothing new to Hollywood. Film makers have been doing just that as far back as records were first kept. So when it was announced that writer/director Stephen Belber had adapted his own play Match into a feature film last year it should have come as little surprise to most. The story centers on a highly successful dancer named Tobi. Tobi is confronted one day by a young man named Mike Davis and his wife Lisa as Mike suspects that Tobi is his long-lost father. It is not the most original story by any means. There is no denying this. Despite this, Belber’s story still somehow manages to keep audiences fully engaged from the story’s outset to its end. It actually proves to translate quite well from stage to screen, unlike so many other movies adapted from plays. This collectively is the center of the movie’s success. As successful as the play’s small screen adaptation proves to be in its translation, it is sadly not perfect. It does tend to struggle with its pacing at times, slowing things down a bit more than necessary at certain points. Luckily it doesn’t hinder the story to the point that the presentation fails in whole. While the story’s pacing proves to be an unavoidable issue in its overall presentation, the work of Sir Patrick Stewart and Matthew Lillard is to be highly commended. It more than makes up for the story’s pacing problems. Being that it does, it and Belber’s script come together to make Match a movie that is a good *ahem* “match” for any lovers of drama.
IFC Films’ recently released drama Match is a good “match” for any lover of dramas. The main reason for this is its script and said script’s translation from stage to screen. The story behind this movie centers on two men–Tobi (Sir Patrick Stewart–Star Trek: The Next Generation, A Christmas Carol, Blunt Talk) and Mike (Matthew Lillard–Scooy-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Be Cool Scooby-Doo)–connected by Mike’s belief that Tobi is his illegitimate father. Mike and Lisa (Carla Gugino–Watchmen, Night at the Museum, Sin City) try to figure out if Tobi is indeed Mike’s father by having Lisa pretend to be a writer for a famous dance magazine. Given the central plot is not exactly the most original work ever crafted either for stage or screen. But even with that in mind, Belber manages to make his story stand out from other similar stories of its ilk thanks to the story’s execution and its ability to translate so well from stage to screen. As Lisa interviews Tobi and Mike reveals that he’s a police officer, audiences are actually led to believe that there is something more sinister than what is actually revealed to be the pair’s real plan. To that extent, Belber deserves applause for maintaining that element of surprise even early on. As the story progresses, Tobi’s growing relationship of sorts with Lisa will keep viewers just as engaged. That is because it aids in Tobi’s character development. His discussions with Lisa serve to make him a truly sympathetic character. On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily serve Gugino in any way. She remains little more than a foil to Willard and Stewart throughout the course of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time. By the story’s final act, audiences will look back and say to themselves that they should have seen the final reveal coming, giving themselves that v-8 moment of sorts. The fact that Belber could keep from making the story predictable all the way to that point makes the script that much more worthy fo applause. Keeping all of this in mind, it makes clear exactly why the script lies at the heart of the overall success of Stephen Belber’s small screen adaptation of his hit stage play. It is just one part of what makes the script so important to the presentation’s success, too. The actual translation of the play from stage to screen is deserving of mention here, too.
Stephen Belber’s script for Match is in itself a solid reason that drama fans will enjoy this presentation. The original play’s translation from stage to screen is just as worth mentioning in its overall success and enjoyment as the script itself. Believe it or not, a play’s translation from stage to screen is very important in how it goes over with audiences. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s take on author Victor Hugo’s beloved novel Les Miserables is a prime example of the importance of a play’s translation from the printed page to the screen. Hugo’s story has been adapted and re-adapted time and again throughout Hollywood’s rich history. This includes both on the big screen and small. Some of those adaptations have translated relatively well while others obviously haven’t done so well. Mel Brooks’ big screen adaptation of his movie The Producers is yet another example of the importance of a play’s translation from stage to screen. The play itself was not that great. And its translation from stage to screen was just as unsuccessful. There was just something about its feel and look that did not work. In the case of Match, quite the opposite can be said of the story. Even those that go into the movie without knowing it was adapted will notice in its minimalist backdrops that it must have come from a play. That is meant in the most complimentary fashion, too. Even with the use of so few sets, it still looks impressive. Belber and the movie’s crew didn’t just try to re-hash the play on screen. They actually made the attempt to make the story look believable. Thanks to those efforts, Belber and company are to be complimented even more. The combination of those efforts to give the story a believable look and to make the story itself one that would keep viewers engaged makes for plenty of reason for dramaphiles to see this movie. Of course for all of the success derived from the movie’s script and its successful adaptation from stage to screen, it is not an entirely perfect presentation. One would be remiss to ignore the story’s occasional pacing issues. Thankfully the issues in question are the movie’s only real cons save perhaps for lacking any bonus commentary. But that’s not necessarily a con in the traditional sense of the word. And it will be discussed at more length shortly.
Match proves in the long run to be a movie that any dramaphile will appreciate. That is thanks in large part to its script and its largely believable look. For all of the success generated by these elements, the movie is not a perfect presentation. It is hindered to a point by its pacing. There are points throughout the course of its roughly ninety-minute run time that it tends to slow down seemingly unnecessarily with the end result being that it loses viewers at least in those moments. Luckily those moments are not so prevalent that they make the movie in whole a fail for Belber and company. But they do happen enough that there is no way that they can be ignored. Thankfully they are the movie’s only con in the more traditional sense of the word. If the movie had come with commentary by perhaps Belber and/or Stewart it would have been a great addition considering minutia such as the framed pictures in Tobi’s apartment, and Stewart and Lillard’s obvious on-screen chemistry. Having no commentary doesn’t take away from the movie by any means. But it would have been a great addition to the overall viewing experience. All things considered here, Matchs’ pacing is a con in the movie’s overall presentation. But it isn’t so overpowering that it makes the movie fail in whole. Neither does its lack of bonus commentary. That lack doesn’t hurt the movie. But this critic personally believes that it would have helped make up for the pacing. Perhaps there could have been commentary on that issue. Regardless, Match still proves in the end to be a movie that any dramaphile will want to see at least once.
The pacing behind Belber’s script for Match is an issue in its overall presentation. While it is an issue that cannot be ignored, it is not so overpowering that it makes the movie a fail. The movie’s script and its successful translation from stage to screen are still enough of a collective success that they make up for the story’s occasional pacing issues. They are not all that make up for those problems, either. Stewart and Lillard’s combined years of experience play just as important of a role in the movie’s success as its look and its script. Stewart shines as he takes over for Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Good Night and Good Luck, Superman Returns), who took on the role in the story’s stage presentation. From the movie’s early moments when Tobi thinks that he is being interviewed to the story’s more emotional moments, Stewart shines. His years of experience both on stage and in front of the camera show through clearly as he makes Tobi a character for whom audiences will root throughout the movie. On the other side of the proverbial coin, Matthew Lillard is just as impressive. most audiences that are familiar with Lillard’s work remember him from movies such as Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2, and some of the most recent animated incarnations of Hanna Barbera’s long-running franchise. That work, along with his work in SLC Punk, Homerun Showdown, and others is completely different from his portrayal here. Considering his past body of work, his portrayal of the emotionally troubled Mike is a massive departure for Lillard. And he is quite convincing, too. It goes to show the diversity of his talents even more. Viewers can’t help but feel some sympathy for Mike as it becomes evident that Mike’s anger issues have arisen from the fact that he did not have a father figure for the majority of his life. Just as interesting is his seeming change in the movie’s final story’s final scene. It’s like a weight has been lifted from him that had weighed with the weight of the world on Atlas’ shoulders. And in turn, it leaves viewers hoping that things will be better between him and Lisa, that weight having been lifted. It is yet one more way in which the work of both Stewart and Lillard presents so much talent and depth. That talent and depth combined with the story’s script and its overall believable look in its adaptation makes for a movie that any dramaphile will want to see at least once. This is despite its occasional pacing issues and regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the work of either Stewart or Lillard. All things considered, Match proves in the end to be a “match” for any dramaphile.
Stephen Belber’s small screen adaptation of his play Match is a movie that is a good “match” for any dramaphile. It takes an all too oft-used plot and gives it new life thanks to its execution. Its translation from stage to screen adds to its enjoyment as it boasts a completely believable look even with the use of minimal sets. The combined efforts of Sir Patrick Stewart and Matthew Lillard are just as impressive in the grand scheme of things. Their efforts combined with the story’s script and its look more than make up for its occasional pacing issues. They do so much good for the movie that even with those pacing issues Match still proves in the end to be a good “match” for any dramaphile and an equally good “match” for any critic’s list of the year’s best new independent movies. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online now at:
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