A good biopic of a great tennis rivalry for your weekend streaming
The legendary rivalry between pro tennis players Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) was insane when it was happening (1978-81). I’m old enough to remember it, and Janus Metz’s Borg vs. McEnroe does a pretty good job of reliving the time period through the lens of their epic 1980 championship match at Wimbeldon. If the film suffers from anything, it’s that Borg was a pretty boring figure, as opposed to the fiery McEnroe. Since much of this film deals with Borg’s side of the story, a good chunk of the film winds up being, well, boring.
Such is not the case with the McEnroe side, because LaBeouf turns in his best performance yet as the temper-tantrum-throwing American sports star who came rolling into Wimbledon to face off against the four-time champion Borg. LaBeouf takes a historical figure in McEnroe and avoids caricature in a role that could so easily become cartoonish. He finds the human competitor at the core of McEnroe, and while he can deliver a very mighty “You can’t be serious!” he finds a lot of sensible levels in the man as well.
The match itself is all kinds of crazy. The dramatic circumstances of that particular sporting event are as intense as any of in the last 50 years, and the film works as a nice time stamp. Much credit to the wig department for making the two actors look pretty authentic. Gudnason does well as Borg, but it’s LaBeouf who steals the movie.