Commentary Recap Movie Review: Borg vs. McEnroe

John McEnroe made a name for himself as foul mouthed athlete. An original of sorts. Björn Borg was a tennis legend that I wasn’t aware of prior to this film. Their epic 1980 Wimbledon final goes down as one of the greatest tennis matches ever. This movie is about to show us the events that lead up to this game of a lifetime and introduce us to the two men behind it. This play-by-play recap review will feature a complete breakdown of the movie, scene by scene. WARNING: This review contains all of the film’s spoilers and ending.

Epic Game Teaser

The film starts with the Wimbledon 1980 Final. Björn Borg is the number one player in the world and going for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. John McEnroe is the number two player and newbie chasing his first Wimbledon title. So the stage is set.

Close-up shots of these intense competitors, Borg played by Sverrir Gudnason and McEnroe by Shia LaBeouf (sporting a heck of a mullet). As Borg is about to start a serve, tosses the ball in the air and the screen fades to a few decades back where a teenage kid is hitting a ball against a wall. Young Borg is taking out his frustrations or pure boredom on that wall.

After that exhausting session, the next shot is of adult Borg looking down from a balcony at a swanky hotel in Monaco, staring down at the pool below. Borg resembles a rocker or wrestler with his long fancy locks. The guy must be bored since he’s doing pushups leaning on the balcony fence.

A Man Obsessed

Next he’s hitting tennis balls that are being spit out from a machine. Two points to note. This guy is obsessed with training and he clearly has no friends. I mean geez, at least try to bamboozle someone into tossing or hitting tennis balls with you.

Looks like his lonesome behavior is warranted as he’s being asked for autographs and mobbed by screaming girls when he’s out walking in public. Ok, so Borg is somewhat popular on the streets of Monaco. He finds an empty bar and gets a coffee, only to realize he doesn’t even have the cash on him to pay for it. No money? No problem. Go carry some boxes for the bartender. Unfortunately for Borg he notices a newspaper with McEnroe’s face on it. Borg tries unsuccessfully to tell the bartender that he’s an electrician. Don’t ever try to fool the bartender.

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Stateside, apparent bad boy McEnroe is on a talk show talking about his outbursts and upcoming Wimbledon competition. Loose cannon McEnroe storms out the talk show stage swearing and complaining about the mention of Borg, meanwhile Borg is having a subtle quiet fit about not having his superstitious items in order. A tale of two very different men is depicted.

Borg gets a meeting with his handlers who plan out his next few years for him. His girlfriend isn’t impressed. This guy has no sense of independence.

McEnroe is back at his hotel drawing a bracket on the wall of Wimbledon competitors as his mental prep, meanwhile Borg is loosing his mind with the thought he might not win Wimbledon for the fifth consecutive time.

Back to Borg’s childhood where more temper tantrums ensue, to the point we learn he was suspended from tennis competitions for six months. His fortunes seem to change when he meets Stellan Skarsgard, not the actual Stellan, even though that be cool, but Lennart Bergelin, the character Skarsgard plays.

Forward back to the present (1980, at least movie present) where Borg plays his first match, while McEnroe watches on from his hotel bed. He doesn’t stay there long as he heads out to party with his crew and groupies. One of the guys describes to McEnroe how compulsively superstitiously obsessed Borg is and breaks down all his innate routines. They should treat Borg to this experience, maybe that would take a little edge off him. Ok, who am I kidding. A robot with a missing battery would have more fun partying than Borg.

Meet Young McEnroe

That leads us to the backstory of McEnroe. From his training to his mothers strict detail oriented quizzing of him while he’s getting his moppy hair, cut.

Time for McEnroe to have his match. Glued to the TV is Borg, analyzing every step McEnroe makes. I’m also glued to something, that being Borg’s hair. It’s even longer now. Someone call McEnroe’s mother to give this man a proper haircut.

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Back to another flashback. Teenage Borg getting coached up by Bergelin. By coaching I mean rouged up and tossed around, literally. As if he needed any more reasons to to have another outburst.

Back to present time. This movie is going back and forth in time more than a time machine could handle, much less your eyes and attention span. So now in the present, apparently Bergelin didn’t do a good job stringing the tennis racket, so for that he gets fired. Now it’s down to that poor angel of a woman that Borg is dating, having to deal with his manic demands.

The following flashback gives us the reason why Borg turned into an emotionless machine. Following that ass kicking he got from Bergelin, he was told never to show any emotion and to use all his emotion into the swing of the racket. This is how the inner monster was created then.

Time for McEnroe’s flashback to the past. Seems like he was coached up to be a math wiz. As he’s flooded with random math questions at a family dinner party.

The smart promotions folks are already strategizing and planning for the inevitable star showdown in the making between Borg and McEnroe. Johnny is doing his part with a f-bomb filled news conference where he unleashes on reporters. Role established—villain.

The Showdown

Out of nowhere the next scene already introduces us to the main showdown between Borg and McEnroe. All the other dozens of matches leading up to it either passed by or were shown in a blink. So much for the set-up. Feels rushed, even though the entire movie has been leading to this inevitable showdown.

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Onto the game. McEnroe smokes him in the first set. Some decent back-to-back game footage. Still can’t tell if it’s actually the main actors playing or not?

Second set goes to Borg. Same for the third set. McEnroe is getting beat down in the fourth, until he gets some encouragement from Borg during the break. McEnroe comes out on fire. Falls behind. Makes a comeback. Ties it up. Kuds to the sound mixing here. Some good tension music, one fitting of a crime thriller.

They are forced into a tiebreaker game. Winner takes all. It comes down to the final match point for Borg to win. They really zoomed by the game scores and bring you to that final serve. Every time Borg takes the lead and is about to close it out, McEnroe ties him. It goes back-and-forth like this. Must have been a compelling match to watch in real-time.

Seven times Borg has a chance to close it and he can’t. McEnroe finally does it. Wait so there is more? The sets are tied at two. Yet another grueling game coming up. We’ve had over 15 minutes of this game getting screen time.

In this final game, every swing is in slow motion with an added flashback. There has been a lifetime worth of flashbacks in this movie. After another nail biter, Borg finally manages to squeeze out a win. That’s pretty surprising. In movie terms I expected McEnroe to win. I wasn’t familiar with the story so the outcome would have been an unknown surprise either way.

The Aftermath

McEnroe didn’t win the showdown, but he won the respect and admiration of the people. Is that the moral? Even McEnroe himself wouldn’t be satisfied with.

After the game Borg celebrates by having some of the cake with his face printed on it. You know, the kinda cakes kids get with Elmo on them or some cartoon character. In this case it’s of a cyborg with no expression or emotion. Enjoy indulging in that vanilla cake.

Whether it was the cake or not, Borg looks depressed sitting at his afterparty. This guy just can’t be satisfied with anything. What a self-induced misery of a life to have. His angel girlfriend leaves the reception and he follows her. Shockingly he decides to leave the party itself. For once he makes a big boy decision. Congrats, you’re a grown ass man, making your first decision. The independence he’s showing is remarkable.

At the airport Borg and McEnroe come face-to-face. They congratulate another and share an awkward hug. It’s the first time in the movie there is a definitive sense that Borg is the older veteran and McEnroe is the young pup.

Into The Future

A follow-up reveals that a year later McEnroe defeated Borg in the Wimbledon final. That same year, Borg retired. At the ripe age of 26. Never mind the wasted few sentences above. They probably weren’t many years apart after all.

There apparently is a message here after all. It’s revealed that they became friends later in life and Borg was the best man at McEnroe’s wedding. I wanna know if that sweet angel girlfriend of Borg’s actually stuck around with him to end up getting married?

Pictures of the actual event and of McEnroe and Borg are shown. Looks like Borg did get married, as evidenced by one of these pictures. Gudnason has a striking resemblance to Borg. Could have easily been brothers by the looks of it. LaBeouf and McEnroe do resemble another a lot also. Good casting all around.

VERDICT:

It’s hard to distinguish the hero and villain of this film? Both aren’t terribly unlikeable or likable characters. So the film is kinda drawn out. Easily could have shed 20 minutes. The set-up is long and then just jumps into the match. There are no significant encounters between the two men prior to the match, as they only creep on each other from a distance.

The individual stories are told in a parallel form. Way too much focus and flashbacks to the childhood and teenage years. It doesn’t need to be constantly reinforced that they had an obsession with being a tennis greats. I get it after the second flashback, but 20 more followed.

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The scene with the big game was fairly compelling. It’s rushed through some sets, but it had to be. The ending flaw of this movie is not bringing these characters face-to-face earlier on, even if it was for a brief tease. There were interesting parts about this film. You had two important figures in the world of tennis at the forefront. A depiction of the lead-up to the epic 1980 Wimbledon final. Good believable acting. It was an okay movie overall. Could have done things to improve it, but it’s still worth checking out, especially if you’re a tennis aficionado. I guess the story of these men wasn’t as dramatic and their life journey to get to that game.

If one thing was establishes is that both Borg and McEnroe were manic and obsessed with success. They were perfectionists to a fault. They were the same person, just showed their inner turmoil in complete opposite ways. McEnroe was the vocal one that showed all sort of emotion, while Borg was a silent ticking bomb, who didn’t even flinch or show a ounce of emotion. Two contrasting approaches, but the same drive and passion.

  • GENRE: Sport-Biography-Drama
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 47 min
  • RATING: R
  • RELEASE DATE: April 13, 2018

‘BORG VS. MCENROE’ SCORE: 50%

(Solid performances and story, but drawn out and gets dull with the presentation of it)

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Commentary Recap Movie Review: Chappaquiddick

You may be asking, what’s a commentary movie review? It’s a review where I will provide the play-by-play of the movie. I will do that in commentary style, meaning that I will comment on the first thing that pops into my head as the movie plays out scene by scene. WARNING: This review will contain all spoilers, as I will be reviewing it from movie start to finish.

First and foremost you’re probably asking what the hell is Chappaquiddick? It’s a movie about Ted Kennedy’s (yup, those Kennedy’s) involvement in the car accident that killed a young woman. The film stars, Kate Mara, Jason Clarke, Ed Helms and Bruce Dern among others. So really, what does Chappaquiddick even mean? It’s actually a real location. Chappaquiddick Island is a place in Massachusetts, that also serves as the location of the incident that the movie is centered on. Now onto the play-by-play film commentary review.

The Opening Scene:

The first thing we see in the opening scene is a picture of the Kennedy family picture portrait. It’s mostly the Kennedy’s as children. Looks a heck of a lot like the picture portrait of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. Old black and white family portrait pictures give me the shivers.

Background audio of the real-life Kennedy tragedy news announcement is playing as the camera zooms onto the pudgy kid wearing Donald Duck’s outfit, looks like that’s the young Teddy Kennedy.

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Friday, July 18, 1969 comes across the title screen.

We see Jason Clarke’s character sitting and getting interviewed. The cat is out of the bag, Clarke plays Ted Kennedy. I’m loving the grainy 60’s picture filter used. Looks like footage video from the time period. Gives the movie an authentic look and feel.

Ted is seen on the phone asking for favors from his cousin Joe Gargan, who is played by Ed Helms. Initially it’s odd seeing Helms in what seems to be a serious role, and trying to do a Bostonian accent.

Footage of the Apollo 11 launching is shown with voice-overs of the event coverage in the background. An introductory tour of Chappaquiddick Island is presented. Ted has a beach home there.

Olivia Thirlby’s character is laying on the beach chatting up Kata Mara’s character Mary Jo Kopechne. They are discussing Ted, who unexpectedly shows up behind them. Sort of like Batman would. Sneaky Ted.

The first valuable lesson of the film comes in the form of a cautionary tale of not allowing Ted and Joe to attempt to sail a boat. Amateurs. All this rush, just so Ted can crash a party and toast to his brother Booby’s memory, even though Ted seems to be the toast of this party as he continues to refer to the partygoers as part of his “family”.

The Plot Is Established

The party continues outside with Ted and Mara’s character Mary Jo sitting on the roof of the car talking about why Ted didn’t run for the White House after Bobby’s death.

A cop drives by and decides to crash their car party, but Ted being the rebel that he is, peels off, only leaving skid marks behind. His rush leads to tragedy, as Ted doesn’t see a bridge ahead and drives the car off the road and into the lake. The girl doesn’t survive.

Ted gets back to the house party and calls for Joe and tells him they have a problem and that he won’t be president. No Ted, you have a problem, not them. They sure do have a major problem as a girl just seemingly died under Ted’s watch. Is Joe supposed to be the official Kennedy problem fixer?

Joe and Paul (Jim Gaffigan)arrive at the accident scene and get down to their tidy whities and jump in the lake to look for the body. Ted just looks lost and lays down on the bridge and comes to realization of what just happened. My question is, how did he not even try to rescue her when he got out of the water in the first place? Instead just casually go look for Joe? Is it a moment of shock or ineptitude on his part?

Joe and Paul, who are attorneys in their own right, advise him to report the accident. Teddy doesn’t listen and instead decides to steal a fishing boat and have his buddies row him out of there. Instead, he checks himself into a hotel and attempts to drown himself in the tub. His recollections of the accident prevent him from committing suicide.

A eery flashback of Mary Jo drowning is mixed with Ted getting ready and leaving the hotel. It sort of demonstrates the lack of fortitude from him in running away from the accident and not even trying to save the girl.

He decides to call his dad—collect. Someone needs to raise the senators salary so he can make a proper call without charging others for it. Ted spills his guts and tells dad Joseph Kennedy Sr. (Bruce Dern) what had happened and asks for help, only to hear his father gasping for air or snoring on the other end. Ted can’t even sleep as he’s haunted with visions of Mary Jo drowning.

Bad news for the senator, a kid and his father discover a floating car which leads them to contact the authorities. Meanwhile, Ted is out at breakfast with some schmucks. Leave it to Joey and Paul to barge in on the lovely breakfast and give Ted a pep talk about the troubles that he’s in now. Geez guys, let the man eat his pancakes.

Joey being the good soldier goes back to the lake house to wake everyone up and inform them of the accident, he also asks them to stick together and help out the senator. Ted, decides to go seek cover inside the police chiefs office. Is that supposed to help? He did close the blinds in the office. Surely nobody will find him now.

Treading Water

Ted decides to call Mary Jo’s mother and inform her that her daughter died. He cries as he breaks the news. Ted isn’t done calling. He calls dad again. Father utters “alibi”. Ted tries to explain that he needs to do the right thing and own up to the accident and doesn’t want to be the failure of the family anymore.

Imagine the surprise the chief had when he walks into his office and Ted is sitting at his desk. He reads his statement and recollection of the accident. Ted heads back to pay a visit to his old man, who is revealed to be in poor condition. Ted assures his father that he has the situation under control. Does he now? Apparently not, since the father gives him a note saying that he lost his complete confidence and Ted needs to do as he says.

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Ted walks into the living room and there is a group on men in suits waiting for him. One looks to another and tells him he was able to handle to Cuban Missile Crisis, so he should be able to handle that. It’s clearly apparent that this is a group of top problem fixers that you’ll find.

The fixers are in uproar that Ted’s drivers license was suspended. Not the fact her was drinking or anything. What do the fixers decide? To get the ultimate fixer to help them out. These guys appear to be master PR pros.

Looks like it was smart for Ted to to make good with a local police chief, who followed the rules and read Ted’s statement to the press. Nothing like a good ol’ chief coming through. More trouble for Ted now that the media is all over the case. The media leaks the story and more questions arise.

Joe is trying to console Ted and prevent him from spiring out of control like he did after Bobby’s death. Lots of references to Bobby in the film. John Kennedy doesn’t seem to be much of a topic of conversation, but Bobby is. Show John some love.

Ted’s television interview airs and families, including the Ted’s, are watching it glued to the TV’s.

Not Much Change

Ted and Joe have their first real squabble when Joe tells him he shouldn’t be wearing a neck brace to Mary Jo’s funeral. So of course he wears it. As he begins to get heat from the press, Ted reminds his fixers to be optimistic and things can be salvaged due to the American people’s connection to the Kennedy name.

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Next up, Ted gets a visit from his dad. He leans over and gets smacked right upside the head with a mean left hand. He was certainly hoodwinked, blindsided. Ted tells his father that he never wanted to be president, that everything he did in life was to make is father proud of him. He references John and Bobby as being great men in their own right. Mr. Kennedy (not the wrestler), grabs a hold of Ted’s neck and they embrace in a hug as tears stream down Ted’s face.

This is one of the most powerful moments of this movie. Finally all the avoidance and dodging is confronted and Ted stops running away from his problems. As he walks out of the room he runs into Joe and tells him that he’s going to be resigning, Joe approves his decision.

Ted pleads guilty and and will due small time in jail. He promises the press he will answer all questions in a television special.

Moments before he goes on Television he has a final run-thru conversation with Joey who tells him, “this is not about opportunity, it’s about integrity”.

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Ted begins his speech to the nation. He admits to being part of the accident, blames it on his confusion, dismisses the allegation that he was drunk and leaves the audience hanging with hope they can help him make the right decision and leaves his resignation up in the air. He couldn’t do it. His ego and letting down his father got the best of him.

Real footage of reporters interviewing people on the street about whether they would vote for Ted as president. The people give mixed reviews.

  • A long shot of the Chappaquiddick bridge where the accident occurred is shown. Follow-up text reveals that Joseph Kennedy Sr. passed away four months after the Chappaquiddick accident.
  • Joe Gargan was estranged from the Kennedy family.
  • Following the TV segment the people of Massachusetts reelected Ted, who ended up as the fourth longest serving Senator in United States history.
  • In 1980 Ted was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the Democratic Presidential race. He never ran again.

VERDICT: 

This film wasn’t as dramatic or compelling as I hoped it would be. The trailers made it a lot more dramatic than the movie played out to be. The entire movie is based on Ted’s struggle with himself and facing his demons brought on by his father and the accident, which is fine when it comes to the character, but you need more in the plot and script.

While Jason Clarke does a terrific job as Kennedy, and looks every bit as much as NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. The casting was done well for this film. Clarke did very well depicting the inner struggles that Ted had, as well as the lack of personal responsibility. He was somewhat of a big baby with his tantrums and comes of as cowardly at times.

Ed Helms did a great job as Joseph Gargan. He made the Bostonian accent believable and even though he had the Helms quirks that we know him for, especially during his characters subtle blowups.

Jim Gaffigan cast as Paul might have been one of the most surprising things on paper. In the film he doesn’t have too much work to do, but he’s solid and fits nicely into the role. Had I not known he was a comedian, his acting didn’t give any indication to it.

The film ran at least 15 minutes longer than it should have. It treads water (no pun intended) during large portions. It’s a interesting suspense story on the surface, but there is little substance or mystery to it.

Does the movie paint Kennedy in a bad light? Not purposely, but it doesn’t portray him as a great guy either. Does it ry to be fair and objective? Yes, it does a solid job at objectivity.

I had higher expectations for this film then it ultimately ended up being. Just drags too slow and doesn’t provide enough fresh plot points.

  • RATING: PG-13
  • GENRE: Drama-History-Thriller
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 46 min
  • RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2018

‘CHAPPAQUIDDICK’ SCORE: 55%

(good performances, interesting story but plot lacks in building much intrigue)