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Movie review: Patrick Stewart takes center stage in ‘Match’

Patrick Stewart fans should see “Match” just to see him cut loose beyond “Star Trek” and “X-Men.”
Patrick Stewart fans should see “Match” just to see him cut loose beyond “Star Trek” and “X-Men.” IFC FILMS

There’s not much scenery in “Match” – it only has three actors and is set largely in a New York City apartment – but what little of it there is is chewed up pretty good, mostly by Sir Patrick Stewart.

In writer-director Stephen Belber’s adaptation of his own 2005 Broadway play, Stewart is given free reign to explore an aging, gay dance instructor who is confronted by a married couple (Matthew Lillard, Carla Gugino) ostensibly for an interview to help with her graduate thesis. But in reality they have another agenda.

Tobi (Stewart), in his 70s, spends his days knitting and, underscoring his eccentricity, keeps decades worth of his nail clippings in a glass jar, which he proudly displays. Mike (Lillard) and Lisa (Gugino) seem to be a likable couple until they become unusually inquisitive about Tobi’s personal life in the free-swinging 1960s, when he liked women as well as men.

What exactly are they after? No spoiler alert here, although it seems obvious in the first 15 minutes what’s up.

I didn’t see “Match” onstage, but it was highly praised (Frank Langella originated the role of Tobi). Onscreen, the material seems contrived and thin. What must have been an electrifying clash of personalities onstage is over the top on film.

Another problem is simultaneously the film’s strength: Stewart. His role is so juicy and he is so good that Lillard and Gugino just can’t keep up. Stewart fans should see the film just to see him cut loose in an arena outside the “Star Trek” and “X-Men” franchises.

He is, in fact, unmatched.

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