Borg/McEnroe (CIFF 2017)

Borg/McEnroe tells the story of two tennis players, Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf), who were rivals in the 1980s. The former was a calculated perfectionist, while the latter was a hothead. That’s about as deep as the movie gets. I’m sure there was more to them than that, but we don’t get that kind of insight. Borg/McEnroe feels like it used Wikipedia and news headlines to create its screenplay. Rush this is not.

The acting tries to add depth where the screenplay falters, particularly when it comes to Borg. Gudnason is great, showcasing an inner turmoil that all of his control and precision aims to keep inside—unlike McEnroe, whose outbursts are what are stopping him from greatness, especially at this point in his career. LaBeouf feels like a natural fit for McEnroe, although that may be because of his real-life antics as much as it is his acting ability.

The tennis stuff is fine, the supporting performances from Stellan Skarsgård and Tuva Novotny are great, and the 100-minute running time isn’t a challenge. But it feels like a dramatization of newspaper headlines, not a fully realized film about these people. It’s missing the depth that makes us care about either of them. Ultimately, you can learn just as much reading up about them online than you will watching this movie.

Conclusion: Borg/McEnroe is moderately entertaining but doesn’t provide enough depth or information about its characters.

Recommendation: Even if you’re a fan of either person, it’s hard to recommend Borg/McEnroe.

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