Jeremy Sisto and David Walton are well matched in this breezy, likable tennis comedy.
Undeniably likable in its own breezy, resolutely unambitious way, Jay Karas’ tennis laffer “Break Point” manages to generate decent laughs, even if its reliance on indie-comedy formula borders on the pathological. Starring a well-matched Jeremy Sisto (who also has story credit, alongside scripter Gene Hong) and David Walton as two odd-couple brothers and doubles partners, the film ought to attract modest distrib interest, although its prospects are far more regional tournament than Grand Slam-sized.
Sisto plays Jimmy, a 35-year-old man-child journeyman (journeyman-child?) tennis pro whose career is already a few years past its expiration date. Thanks to his Ilie Nastase-like court demeanor and Pat Rafter-style approach to pregame drinking, he’s just lost his doubles partner (Cy Amundson), and he’s become enough of a circuit joke that no one else will agree to play with him as he looks to make one last go for a major tournament.
As hinted at by his veterinarian father (J.K. Simmons), the only option left is for him to ask his younger brother, Darren (Walton), a stick-in-the-mud substitute teacher whom Jimmy ditched for a higher-ranked partner when the two were teenagers. After a lot of predictable bickering, Darren agrees, and the two strive to find a common ground between Jimmy’s arrogant recklessness on the court and Darren’s careful conservatism.
Perhaps it’s needless to say that Darren is tailed everywhere he goes by an adorably oddball little boy (Joshua Rush) whose flamboyant fashion sense and lack of physical prowess mask both a hidden talent and a secret trauma. (Rush has very solid comic timing, but his character is simply a collection of cute quirks.) Darren also carries a torch for Heather (Amy Smart), an assistant in his father’s clinic, who is unaccountably dating an oily hair-replacement pitchman (Vincent Ventresca).
Combing the cliches of the underdog-sports-hero and skewed-but-sweet-indie-comedy subgenres, “Break Point” goes pretty much exactly where you might expect it to, with plentiful training montages and some professionally shot, if eventually maddeningly repetitive, tennis competition footage. That it works as often as it does is largely due to Sisto and Walton’s playful, relaxed style of back-and-forth, which manages to draw the biggest chuckles precisely by not straining too hard for them.
Tech credits are all perfectly sufficient.
SXSW Film Review: 'Break Point'
Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, March 8, 2014. (In SXSW Film Festival — Narrative Spotlight.) Running time: 90 MIN.
A Broad Green Pictures presentation. Produced by Gabriel Hammond. Executive producer, Daniel Hammond.
Directed by Jay Karas. Screenplay, Gene Hong, Jeremy Sisto; story, Hong. Camera (color), Jim Frohna; editor, Brad E. White, Seth Clark; music supervisors, Holly Adams, Mary Ramos; production designer, Dan Butts; costume designer, Kim Ngo; set decorator, Laura Harper; sound, Gopal Bidari; re-recording mixer, Michael Minkler; visual effects supervisor, Ken Loscmandi; assistant director, Scott Hohnbaum; casting, Nancy Nayor.
Jeremy Sisto, David Walton, Amy Smart, J.K. Simmons, Joshua Rush, Chris Parnell, Adam Devine, Cy Amundson, Vincent Ventresca.