The San Diego International Film Festival has no match. Well, it does have one match this year, and it’s the movie “Match.” But I’ll get to that in a minute.
What’s great about film festivals for us cinephiles, isn’t just the fun parties and mingling with the actors and filmmakers. It’s seeing a lot of great movies we may not have otherwise have the chance to see. I always love the shorts the SDIFF shows, and you often catch some interesting documentaries and foreign films. Now, that doesn’t mean they skimp on the big guns. Each year the SDIFF shows movies that go on to win Oscars. This year, they’ve got Armageddon Time (Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway), The Banshees of Inisherin (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson) – which a critic friend of mine already said was the funniest movie he’s seen in years; and there’s Empire of Light (Colin Firth). Olivia Colman will surely get an Oscar nomination because she’s entered that Meryl Streep level where any film she does gets her a nomination.
When I read about all the small indie films the Festival had, they all looked intriguing. There’s Taurus, a movie starring Colson Baker (better known by his stage name Machine Gun Kelly). He impressed me in a Bruce Willis movie last year (where he met Megan Fox), and he’s going to be at the Festival, too.
I’m most excited to see Mending the Line which stars Brian Cox and Patricia Heaton. It deals with soldiers and fly fishing, and reminded me of how much I loved A River Runs Through It. And I don’t even fish!
The other night I was able to watch one of the movies that will be at the festival. It’s a two-hander called Match, written and directed by Sean McGinly, who gave us the underrated and terrific The Great Buck Howard (Tom Hanks, John Malkovich). He made this during Covid, which makes sense. It has the feel of a two-person play, and was obviously an easier way to make a movie with Covid shut-downs. It reminded me of another movie about a couple fighting that I loved last year – Malcolm & Marie (Zendaya and John David Washington).
We watch this couple meet on a dating site and start emailing. They’re played by Ahna O’Reilly (The Morning Show, Where the Crawdads Sing) and an actor that excited my wife, since she loved him on The Walking Dead – Austin Nichols (Ray Donovan). As they’re excited getting to know each other, so are we. Ahna says at one time, “You had me at Tommy Tutone” and that’s when the film had me. It’s always fun when somebody references an ‘80s “one hit wonder” band.
Seeing characters get to know each other, and then move to flirting, in this day and age when so much is done on computers, is intriguing. Especially when we start wondering – will someone be catfished? Is this going to turn dark, or become the best love story ever?
One thing in the story that didn’t quite work for me, was when the film went to showing both their faces as they talk – we’d occasionally see the words pop up on the screen. I don’t think it was necessary to add any extra emphasis and it became a slight distraction. Since the script is sharp enough, we’re on board just watching them communicate without any other bells and whistles (another example was when hearts popped up in the background).
When you watch intelligent people have debates on things, it’s entertaining. It can be something as simple as whether or not you should use “LOL” in a text, or as important a topic as whether it’s a good idea to spank your kids. The latter comes from Austin’s brother, who spanks his kids. I was reminded of a debate I had with my college professor on this very subject.
I loved how one character tries to impress the other by throwing out the name of playwright Eugene O’Neill. And spells his name wrong.
Anyway…the movie is a rollercoaster ride of emotions. And sure, there were times I thought of other great movies with the situations here – Hard Candy, Swingers, and Fatal Attraction – to name a few. Nothing wrong with something reminding me of those fun films.
I did have a hard time completely buying the male character. Nichols does a great job with his lines and facial expressions, but the way the character was written – just didn’t completely ring true for me. He was a bit too honest and expressive, for what some of his other traits were.
Watching this movie got me excited for the other films slated to run at the SDIFF, and the next larger cast Sean McGinly will work with.
3 stars out of 5.
For tickets or to see the list of movies at the Festival, go to: SDFILMFEST.COM