SXSW 2014: BREAK POINT Review

by     Posted 162 days ago

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I’d take a solid story over a pretty picture any day, but Break Point’s shot selection is so sloppy, it nearly sinks all of the film’s assets.

Jeremy Sisto leads as Jimmy Price, a former tennis star who depleted his career via bad behavior, a poor attitude and a good deal of alcohol.  When his current doubles partner ditches him and Jimmy realizes that he doesn’t have any other options to pursue, he turns to one of few who’s stuck with him for life, his brother Darren (David Walton).  Despite their tumultuous past and present, Jimmy and Darren make an attempt at pushing their differences aside so that they can train hard and make it through a qualifying tournament and into The Alerian Open. Hit the jump for more.

break-point-jeremy-sisto-david-waltonJimmy is a disgusting jerk, and for a good bit of Break Point, he’s tough to watch.  He insults everyone around him, attempts to blackmail a few of them and throws temper tantrums on the tennis court like a child.  It’s no wonder his doubles partner left him.  Even worse, just after that partner storms out of the locker-room, a super sweaty Jimmy just hangs there, drinking gin from an empty beer can while mindlessly picking his feet as though it doesn’t even faze him.  If it doesn’t faze him, how will it faze an audience?  It takes time, but it does eventually thanks to Darren.

Darren is the exact opposite of Jimmy.  He’s trying to build a career for himself by substitute teaching.  Trouble is, with school out for summer, technically he’s unemployed.  But, minus that issue, Darren’s a great guy and serves as the perfect balance to Jimmy.  The two don’t come together until about 20 minutes into the film, but once that happens, their connection is both honest and appealing enough to carry you through.  With Darren as the Break Point anchor, it’s only natural to give Jimmy a little more leeway and, ultimately, accept him.

Both characters do go through a transformation, but Darren doesn’t come out of it with the ability to let loose and you aren’t led to believe that Jimmy will change his ways either, rather they simply learn from the experience, sparking a moderate change that feels quite realistic.  Co-writers Sisto and Gene Hong also infuse Break Point with a feel-good, underdog sports movie appeal.  Just as much as you’re rooting for the brothers to patch things up, you’re also hoping that they win, too.

Another character that’s exceptionally easy to get behind is Joshua Rush’s Barry.  You know how Darren is on summer break from his teaching gig? Well, one of his students just isn’t having it.  Rather than bid Darren farewell for the season, Barry follows him around like a puppy dog, ultimately sticking with the brothers through their training and matches.  Barry should be the all too familiar, highly irritating cutesy kid, but Rush is so remarkably natural that he manages to turn even the cheesiest lines of dialogue into innocent, heartfelt pleas.  Barry’s also the butt of the large majority of the film’s jokes and thanks to Rush’s spot-on timing and facial expressions, the large majority are effective.

The only element that threatens to suck the life out of this entire experience is the camerawork.  Often it looks as though the set isn’t lit, there are quite a few instances when you can tell certain scenes have been shot during various parts of the day, and the shot composition is atrocious across the board.  Very few frames are particularly aesthetic and the large majority don’t cut together well at all, some of the worst of which involve two very similarly sized visuals shot from the same exact angle being placed back-to-back.  There’s also a fight sequence towards the tail end of the film that is so poorly covered, it’s nearly impossible to track, which is especially unfortunate because it only involves two people in a small, simple location.

It’s really too bad that the visuals are so distracting because otherwise, Break Point is a highly enjoyable film.  Sisto, Walton and Rush all deliver thoughtful, vibrant performances, turning their characters into people that you care about enough to track.  The fact that their work overpowers a shot selection capable of destroying a film really speaks to their success.

Grade: B

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