Review: Borg/McEnroe (TIFF)

Borg/McEnroe (TIFF)
6 10

PLOT: On the eve of the 1980 Wimbledon Championships, Swedish champ Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) faces the prospect of not being able to achieve his fifth straight win when pitted against rising American tennis champ John McEnroe (Shia LeBeouf).

REVIEW: TIFF’s opening night Galas typical start the festival off in a low-key way, with the big guns always saved for the weekend, when all the world premieres happen, or early in the second week, when they get around to the Canadian premieres (for stuff that previously played Venice/Telluride). Previous opening night Galas included THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN remake, THE FIFTH ESTATE and THE JUDGE. The reasoning is sound - why blow the big premieres on a night when people have to work the next day and are less likely to come out and make serious noise?

Even for opening night though, BORG/MCENROE is a minor film. While an entertaining, but incomplete run-down of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe’s tennis court rivalry, something like this, despite having already been bought by North American distributor Neon, would be well suited to a streaming service. Mostly a biopic of Borg, with McEnroe more of a side-character, this is best appreciated by tennis fanatics, but even they may wish they were watching a good doc instead, with relatively low stakes for either pro.

The dramatic thrust is essentially Borg’s resentment at how, only in his early twenties, he’s already on a physical decline, and can’t be the absolute best player in the world anymore. He knows a post-champ future awaits him, and he’s having trouble facing his own mortality, even though he’s surrounded by nothing but support, be it from his father-like trainer (Stellan Skarsgard) or his fellow tennis champ wife (Tuva Novotny).

Mostly shot in Swedish, it’s still pretty polished, with it looking like a hefty budget was given over to the filmmakers, allowing solid recreations of Wimbledon center court and even, in one scene, New York’s famous Studio 54. The big get for TIFF is certainly the presence of the always controversial Shia LaBeouf, ideally cast as the similarly outspoken (and sometimes loathed) McEnroe. Building on the similarities, LaBeouf seems to deeply empathize with his character, whose pursuit of excellence comes at the expense of every relationship he has. The public loathes him on-court, but just like LaBeouf himself; his talent can’t be denied, and that’s what makes Borg sweat.

A full half-hour of the 100 minute film is devoted the the final match, building to a ROCKY-like finish, but fans of the game will know that the events of the next year’s Wimbledon give the film an interesting epilogue that more could have been done with. Overall, BORG/MCENROE is standard stuff. While it wasn’t made by Hollywood, it has that feel, although the result, if uneven, is still entertaining. It’s just not quite a TIFF-level title, although I get how LaBeouf’s performance maybe elevates it to a level it otherwise doesn’t really belong to.

Source: JoBlo.com



Latest Entertainment News Headlines


Featured Youtube Videos