Movie Review: “First One In”

Did you all have a perfectly adequate Thanksgiving? One filled with a few laughs, a predictable over-the-top menu, and a vague sense of self-loathing afterwards?

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

It’s time for my promised review of the movie First One In, currently available on Amazon Prime. As I noted in the last post, First One In follows the adventures of Madi Cooke (Kat Foster) as she tries to restart her life after being ousted from a Survivor-style reality TV show. Turns out our Madi accidentally killed one of the last two remaining members of an endangered species, raising the wrath of the public at large. Madi returns to real life to find herself one of the most hated women in the country.

Fired from her real estate agency, Madi dyes her hair, assumes a fake last name, and applies for a position at another firm. The cut-throat head of this agency, Bobbi Mason (Georgia King), has lost her tennis partner just before the big tournament. If Madi, a former high school player, can help Bobbi’s team win, she’s hired.

It’s a silly premise, but it works better in the film than I can possibly make it sound in this recap. This is a film of broad comedy and stock characters. If you can get on board with that kind of movie, there’s some fun to be had here.

Of course, the tennis itself is atrocious. The women aren’t supposed to be particularly good, but even given this lowered bar, few of the actors are credible as tennis players. We never see a point played out, only a splicing of footage of one awkward swing after another.

But Foster plays Madi with sympathy and wit, and King throws herself gleefully into the role of uber-bitch Bobbi. You know where this movie is headed every step of the way, but the actors are entertaining company on the journey. (Side note: I recognized only one actor in this film—Karen Lynne Gormey. You know her as Stephanie Mangano, John Travolta’s love interest and dance partner in Saturday Night Fever. She’s 75 now! Can we really be this old?)

First One In really hits its mark when it targets “ladies’” tennis culture—the preoccupation with attire, the questionable line calls, the smile masking the venom. I especially appreciated the scene where the players preface a match with their excuses (“I haven’t played in a week and a half!”), since I routinely employ this face-saving move myself. I would have liked more of this sort of skewering and less of, well, everything else.

So here’s my somewhat complicated rating for this movie.

  • 1 star, if you’re too highbrow for broad comedy
  • 2 stars, if you like broad comedy or are a tennis player with a blog to fill
  • 3 stars, if you’re watching with your tennis teammates and sharing copious amounts of alcohol

Seriously, if you can get some tennis buddies together post-Covid, you could have a fun evening with this.

Did anyone else watch this movie (like I told you to, ahem)? What does it get right about recreational tennis leagues?

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