McEnroe Movie Review

Streaming and on demand for Showtime subscribers beginning Friday Sept. 2, 2022
Premiers On-Air on SHOWTIME on Sunday, Sept. 4 — at 7PM ET/PT


“McEnroe” is a documentary about tennis star John McEnroe, the brash and hot-tempered player who ruled the courts – and the headlines. McEnroe holds multiple records and he was a raging force to be reckoned with in the major matches. This documentary gets into the gritty details of the original Bad Boy of Tennis.


In his peak season – in 1984 – McEnroe was the professional tennis Number One Player for the fourth year in a row. That year he won four of the top six tournaments. John McEnroe was long on tennis talent, but short on temper.


John McEnroe Jr. started playing tennis when his family lived close to a tennis club in Queens. His efforts paid off because of an attitude of excellence taught by his father. John watched professional tennis matches and had great affection for the talented stars. New young players were on scene at that time, such as Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis.


At the age of 18, McEnroe played into qualifying tournament at Wimbledon in 1977. Even as an amateur, John McEnroe went further than any other by getting into the semi-finals. He played against Jimmy Connors, but lost. But by this point, there was a fire in his gut that would not stop until he was on top.


In 1978, McEnroe got better and better in tennis. He got professional endorsements and played in the US Open. He lost again to Connor in the semi-finals. Yet, after that, he achieved winning five different tournament titles.  He wound up being ranked the Number 4 player of the year. Next year, he played many more tournaments, both playing doubles and singles. He won against Vitas Gerulaitis, and the two of became best of friends. He also beat Bjorn Borg and wound up getting ranked Number 3 player. John McEnroe was a fast train to the hall of tennis fame.


John McEnroe continued to compete at the top level during the first half of the eighties. Competition and hot-headedness went hand-in-hand with his performances. In 1980, he played Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon finals – and lost. Then he played against Borg again at the US Open. This time he won. McEnroe against Borg was like night and day. One was rage and fury on the court, but the other was calm and peaceful silence. That year McEnroe wound up at the Number 2 player slot, just behind Borg.


In the following years, McEnroe excelled in the tournaments. On the courts, he seemed to do no wrong. But his temper tantrums during the matches caused quite a number of fans to boo and cat-call. But winning has a way to smooth over any rough spots. His comments and questions about the match officials were legendary rants.


He caused a stir with many loud and angry words to the umpires. One famous catch phase was “you cannot be serious” when a call went against him. He paid many fines for swearing, and was never allowed an honorary club membership to Wimbledon.


John McEnroe had a fantastic year in 1984. He holds the highest single-season winning percentage, based on a 82-3 match record. He won 13 singles tournaments in that year. That included Wimbledon and the US Open in his wins. In that year, John McEnroe was the Number 1 tennis player in the world. That was his standing, the top male tennis singles player, for the fourth consecutive year. McEnroe wanted to continue to rule the world of tennis.


But McEnroe had his sights on other interests as well. He was in love with actress Tatum O’Neal. Tatum had also achieved a certain amount of fame at a young age. She starred with her father, Ryan O’Neal, in a movie called “Paper Moon” (1974).  At ten years of age, she got a Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That is a record that still stands today. They were married in 1986 and already had one son. They went on to have three children all together. John McEnroe was taking a pause in his tennis career to work on being a husband and a father.


But the tennis star was never again able to shine as bright. His marriage to a person almost as famous as him also took a toll on McEnroe. Marriage difficulties and drug abuse issues popped up, for both John and Tatum. By 1994, Tatum O’Neal was in a very bad personal spot. Non-stop media attention put more friction in the marriage, and at that time – they divorced. John won custody of the three children, while Tatum went into rehab for her problems.


But all during this time, McEnroe never had the same competitive spirit for professional tennis. He entered various tournaments, but his edge was gone. John McEnroe retired from tennis in 1992. He was still playing doubles up until that point and having some success. His singles matches had dropped him down quite low, and he never approached the top ranks again.


So he decided to change his direction. He had made a lot of friends in the music business, such as Keith Richards, Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton. He took inspiration from them and learned to play guitar. He set himself up as a musical act. Around this time he met Patty Smyth. Patty was the lead vocalist for the band called Scandal.


John McEnroe and Patty Smyth married in 1997. They had, prior to that, had a daughter. Smyth also had a daughter from a previous marriage. John had his three children from his prior marriage to Tatum O’Neal. John and Patty went on to have one more daughter, which brought their total number of children to six. John McEnroe was completely out of competitive play at this point. His time was taken up with being a husband and a father, but with a much more supportive spouse.


His time since then has been spent working in charity events, doing some coaching and playing in occasional Celebrity Tennis events. He has done television commentary and analysis work. He no longer rules the tennis courts as king. He no longer imagines himself as a rock star in some touring band. He has gotten used to the calm chaos of raising a family and being a devoted husband. Plus, nowadays, John McEnroe never needs to pay any fines for outrageous antics and for obscene language towards the officials.


John McEnroe is great subject for documentary such as this. There is plenty of newsreel and sports footage of the various tennis matches where McEnroe built his reputation.  There is a lot of one-on-one interview time, with some interesting graphics put to use. There is a ‘storyline’ of a single night, in which John McEnroe walks the empty city street to reach some unknown destination.


“McEnroe” is a fact-filled and entertaining documentary about a talented tennis player who lived out his dream, and always gave the fans someone to love or loath.


Streaming and on demand for Showtime subscribers beginning Friday Sept. 2, 2022
Premiers On-Air on SHOWTIME on Sunday, Sept. 4 — at 7PM ET/PT




Writer and Director: Barney Douglas
Directory of Photography: Lucas Tucknott
Editor: Steve Williams
Music: Felix White
Featuring: John McEnroe, Patty Smyth-McEnroe, Billie Jean King, Bjorn Borg, Peter Fleming, Chrissie Hynde, Keith Richards
Length: 104 Minutes
MPAA rating: TV-MA
Genre: Documentary


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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