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Break Point: SXSW Review

Break Point SXSW Still - H 2014
Michael Nolan

The Bottom Line

A routine but likeable sports comedy

Venue

South By Southwest Film Festival, Narrative Spotlight

Cast

Jeremy Sisto, David Walton, Joshua Rush, J.K. Simmons, Amy Smart, Adam DeVine, Chris Parnell, Vincent Ventresca, Cy Amundson, Jenny Wade

Director

Jay Karas

Brothers Jeremy Sisto and David Walton hash out their differences on the tennis court.

AUSTIN — Two estranged brothers reunite on the court in Break Point, Jay Karas' sports comedy set in the backwaters of the California amateur tennis circuit. Easygoing and always likeable but hardly packed with laughs, the film will rely on the drawing power of leads Jeremy Sisto and David Walton, familiar to fans of Fox's New Girl as Jess' too-perfect onetime boyfriend and as the star of NBC's new series About a Boy.

Sisto plays Jimmy Price, an aging, volatile player with a habit of alienating his partners. After having yet another one quit on him, Jimmy decides to "make a run at the open" by reuniting with his first teammate, brother Darren (Walton). Though he's reluctant to open old wounds — they've hardly spoken in years, much less played together — Darren is nursing some personal wounds and needs the distraction; if Jimmy will stop drinking and get serious about athleticism, Darren says, he's in. Cue the training montage.

While Jimmy's rekindled ambition is the film's ostensible focus (cowriter Sisto has been nursing this project for years), subplots favor Darren: The sensible brother is the one with the love interest — Amy Smart, who works for their veterinarian father (J.K. Simmons) — and the one who attracts an 11 year-old acolyte named Barry (Joshua Rush). Barry, an overeager student from a class Darren taught as a substitute teacher, is the film's most reliable comic relief and an undisguised sympathy-generator in a script that is otherwise emotionally thin. (Though a theme of fraternal mistrust is acknowledged from the start, its sudden crisis moment is poorly developed, making the pair's reconciliation underwhelming.)

On-the-court footage emphasizes tight shots over wider ones that would make gameplay more persuasive. Tennis newbies in the audience get just barely enough babying from the screenplay ("a second-serve ace — is that good or bad?" someone asks) to keep up with our heroes' pursuit of victory in the Palm Springs-set tourney.

Production Company: Broad Green Pictures
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, David Walton, Joshua Rush, J.K. Simmons, Amy Smart, Adam DeVine, Chris Parnell, Vincent Ventresca, Cy Amundson, Jenny Wade
Director: Jay Karas
Screenwriters: Gene Hong, Jeremy Sisto
Producers: Gabriel Hammond, Jeremy Sisto, Devin Adair
Executive producer: Daniel Hammond
Director of photography: James Frohna
Production designer: Daniel Butts
Music: Timothy Anderson
Costume designer: Kim H. Ngo
Editor: Brad Wilhite
No rating, 90 minutes