Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Matthew Lillard.
In 2004, Stephen Belber wrote a play about an older dance teacher whose life is interrupted by a couple who come in to ask him about his past in dancing. The play starred Frank Langella, Ray Liotta, and Jane Adams and was given a Tony Award nomination for Langella’s performance. In 2014, Belber would come to direct the film adaptation of his play and it’s wonderful.
Sir Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) stars as the lead in Match, Tobi, an older man who teaches ballet at Juilliard. We shortly come to realize that he is expecting visitors, something he isn’t used to, as demonstrated by his nervous tendencies and his worry about needing “party mix” constantly to have something for everyone to snack on. Enter Lisa (Carla Gugino) and her husband Mike (Matthew Lillard) who are here to discuss Tobi’s past in the dance community for Lisa’s dissertation. Lisa reveals that she’s been to a few people for this dissertation, but that she had wanted to meet him the most with his ties to the creation of the dance community back in the 60’s. Eventually Tobi starts to realize that her questions, as well as Mike’s, start to focus solely on the 60’s and he starts to realize that the Seattle couple may be here for more than just Lisa’s dissertation.
Match is an absolutely wonderful film. Belber’s script is tight and filled with emotional power; there is a beautiful rawness to all of the characters and the story that unfolds, right down to the final scene. It’s really hard to discuss the film without giving anything away, but the way the story unfolds is tense, heartbreaking and just incredibly well done – artistically so and deeply moving. You can tell easily that this is based on a play, with it’s obvious three act structure and near single setting, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Belber directs the film in a way that not only can you see that it’s based on a play, but it utilizes all of those things to enhance it, making you feel like you are watching a play in the best way possible. I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the music choice, particularly one song that plays a couple of times during the film, but that’s probably the only thing I didn’t like about this movie.
The acting was absolutely breathtaking. Stewart is a tour de force, playing on every single emotion a human being has to offer. Be it joy and happiness, sadness, disappointment, self loathing, caring and nurturing – and many more emotions, which depicts with such honesty; it’s inspiring just as a human being. Gugino is wonderful, she starts out as such a nice and happy woman and eventually turns to show fear and anger and genuine joy. Her “dance” scene where she lets everything go was an incredibly cathartic experience. She is absolutely wonderful and I feel the world needs more of her in emotional characters such as this.
I’ve watched five films starring Matthew Lillard this week and aside from the little hiccup with Love’s Labour’s Lost, every single movie has brought a new favorite performance to my attention, but I can honestly say that this is his best this week. Lillard’s character at times is hard to sympathize with; he becomes sort of a monster at one point, but other times it’s very easy to sympathize with what he has lost, never had, and continues to need. Lillard’s performance begins with his character very subtly to Tobi, but obvious to us, having a secret that he can’t keep hidden for long. That sense of urgency and anxiety comes across all too well with his acting and once it comes out he changes completely. Lillard portrays such raw and beautiful emotion that even I almost broke down crying just watching it.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Match is a beautiful film, that’s all there is to it. Sure, The Curve, Spanish Judges, and Finder’s Fee are all fun as hell with wonderful performances by Lillard, but none of them have anything on Match. Match is a deep, wonderful character study, it’s raw emotions are worn on it’s sleeve, and the immense talent surrounding every aspect of this film is breathtaking. Lillard gives what is arguably his best performance, certainly the most wonderfully emotional I’ve ever seen. If you are a fan of his brief, yet fantastic, appearance in The Descendants, you will absolutely love him in this.
Thank you all for tuning in to Matthew Lillard week, I hope you all enjoy and love him as much as I do. Tune in next week where we revisit an actress we saw in the first film of this week, Keri Russell!