Year:  2023

Director:  Ili Bare

Rated:  M

Release:  12 October 2023

Distributor: Madman

Running time: 99 minutes

Worth: $10.00
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Bruce McAvaney, Tracey Holmes, Rennae Stubbs, Paul McNamee, Pat Cash, George Megalogenis, Josh Frydenberg, Craig Tiley

… an extended episode of Australian Story.

Not so much of a documentary as a corporate promotion for Melbourne’s tennis tournament, The Australian Open, the experience of watching this feature length showpiece can be equated to a 5 setter; if you don’t appreciate tennis, you’ll be fast asleep after a few games, while the tennis tragic will be gripped from the first point to the last.

All of the big issues are raised – from the tournament’s humble beginnings to Melbourne’s investment in the facilities, which coincided with the rise of Pat Cash; the controversy around the Margaret Court Arena; the hot conditions; Serena Williams’ triumph; up until the Novak Djokovic one-two of anti-vaxxer turned hero.

Ironically, some of the most barbed slings are pointed at the patriotic fans, who tennis purists and many of the players featured here disdain. Ironic because this film is so patriotic. Paul McNamee, who was charged with elevating the event on the world stage, even reckons that he coined the term Australianism.

You do learn some things – did you know that Josh Frydenberg was a tennis champion? Do you care? Admittedly, some of the archival footage is welcome, reminding us of a more innocent time, and there are various strands of interest introduced, but only explored in a threadbare way, and unfortunately the whole does not add up to the sum of its parts.

All of this is presented in a slick manner, directed by Ili Bare (The Leadership – another toothless documentary), but you do have to ask the question – how is this worthy of a cinema release? Perhaps the sports mad Melbourne parochial will get something out of this, for the rest of us, this is an extended episode of Australian Story.