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2/2/08

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I was a little biased the first time I saw this film. I met producer & star Kirk Fox at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, when my short film Lucky Shoes was playing there. He was an incredibly nice guy, we kept running into each other and he made sure to say hello each time. (And for some more name dropping.) I also got to briefly meet director and star Donal Logue a few years back when his film The Tao of Steve was playing at the Seattle Film Festival. So I felt like I had a bit of a personal connection to this film before I saw it, which I ended up really enjoying.



That said, I know that I would have liked Tennis, Anyone? even if I had never met either of these guys. It's a fun indie-comedy, with a good spirit, that reaches beyond the surface ideas to be something more. Donal Logue plays Danny Macklin, an actor on a somewhat successful TV show, not too far of a stretch as Donal used to star on the somewhat successful TV show Grounded For Life. While exaggerated, I'm sure that he used a few of his Hollywood stories for the film. He meets Gary Morgan, played by Kirk Fox, on the set of an indie-film that they're in together.


A while later, they run into each other at a party, and realize that they both have a major interest in tennis. Danny is an okay player, while Gary is a former professional, now a tennis-pro teaching kids how to play. They decide to team up together to play in a few celebrity tournaments and grow to be great friends. Jason Isaacs is hilarious as Danny's nemesis Johnny Green, he's a big time movie star who's old friends with Danny and can't help but rub it in his face every time they see each other; which happens a lot now that they're playing in tournaments together. Johnny gives Danny some terrible advice on how to advance his career, which starts an avalanche of terrible decisions, until finally Danny gets kicked in the face by a stripper and loses his TV show.


Tennis, Anyone?, while having a lot of behind-the-scenes Hollywood stuff, and even more tennis scenes, is ultimately about two men finding themselves. Gary being very good at tennis, really wants to be an actor, but unfortunately isn't very good at it. Danny has made it as an actor, but isn't happy with his lot in life, he has to lose just about everything before he understands who he really is, tennis helps center him. There's a touching scene near the end, when Gary's dad dies and the boys spend a moment honoring him, it's handled with the right mix of humor and melancholy.


The film hasn't had much attention, I didn't hear anything about after the festival, it's disappeared into animosity, I ran across it on IFC. Which is really a shame, it's a nicely made coming-of-age comedy, with some great performances from Donal Logue and Kirk Fox. There's also some fun cameos with Stephen Dorff as a country singer and Paul Rudd as a porn star. Donal Logue proves that he knows what he's doing behind the camera, while the film isn't a directing feast, he also doesn't make a lot of mistakes. If you like indie-comedies with some heart, you should give Tennis, Anyone? a chance.



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