The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Break Point

Break Point is a tennis movie for people who don't care about tennis. That is to say, the plot involves tennis, yet it's not really about tennis. The film is, however, about characters and relationships and the way family members find common ground, even when their personalities clash. While neither the greatest sports-related movie nor the best dysfunctional family comedy ever made, Break Point has enough good stuff in it to easily justify a viewing.

Jeremy Sisto plays Jimmy Price, an aging tennis star who has just been dropped by his most recent partner. Jimmy wants to make another run for the U.S. Open, but he's burned all his bridges. No one will team up with him anymore. Desperate for options, he turns to his estranged brother/former partner Darren (David Walton), a newly-single substitute teacher with nothing else to do for the summer. Darren reluctantly agrees, but soon finds himself once more growing frustrated with Jimmy's obnoxious, irresponsible ways. Their veterinarian father, Jack (J.K. Simmons), intervenes, encouraging Jimmy to get his act together. Meanwhile, Darren tries to muster up the courage to make a move on his longtime crush, Heather (Amy Smart), while also mentoring a young student, Barry (Joshua Rush).

Break Point very much adheres to a well-worn formula. The brothers bicker and fight, nearly break up, then come back together to work collaboratively toward their goal. There's even a running bit involving Heather's stereotypically douchey boyfriend, a rich jerk who seems to have graduated from James Spader in Pretty in Pink University. The arc of the story is very, very predictable.

But while the movie may be boilerplate in the grander scheme of things, it scores on the little details. Sisto and Walton are both outstanding. The former believably plays a cad we can't help but love, even though he often acts like a selfish jerk. The latter, meanwhile, takes what could have been a one-dimensional character (insecure loser) and makes him endearingly sympathetic. We sense that Darren's tenuousness may, at some level, be a reaction to Jimmy's brashness. The actors create a dynamic between their characters that is equal parts humorous and fascinatingly broken.

There are also a lot of laughs in Break Point, which was written by Gene Hong, from a story he developed with Sisto. Many lines of dialogue are incredibly sharp, and there are some funny pop culture-related jokes about Pacific Rim, Katy Perry, and Pearl Jam. The contentious interactions between Jimmy and Darren are funny, as well, as we watch them annoy or provoke each other. Hong's screenplay shows an acute understanding of sibling conflict in its most unexpurgated form. At times, the movie also pokes a bit of fun at itself. One running gag involves Jack explaining what's happening during the tennis matches to other characters, who already know what everything means. In other words, he's really explaining it to the audience. Even when on plot autopilot, the movie's quick-witted script keeps things moving along steadily.

Break Point is light and bouncy, not unlike a tennis ball being lobbed back and forth. You always know where it's going, yet there's a distinct pleasure in the fast-paced way it gets there. Jeremy Sisto and David Walton are terrific, and their performances draw you in. At the end of the day, this is about the brothers, not the sport they play. Whether they make it to the U.S. Open is ultimately less important than whether they can reconcile. You already know the answer to that. Doesn't mean it's not entertaining to watch it happen.

( out of four)

Break Point is rated R for language and sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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