Tuesday, July 14, 2015
7 Days in Hell
Directed by Jake Szymanski and written by Murray Miller, 7 Days in Hell is a mockumentary that revolves around the longest tennis match in the history of the sport between two rivals during 7 days in five sets. The film plays into a rivalry where two very different men do whatever it takes to play the greatest tennis game ever as Andy Samberg and Kit Harington respectively play the rivals Aaron Williams and Charles Poole as the film is narrated by Jon Hamm. Also starring Lena Dunham, Will Forte, June Squibb, Mary Steenburgen, Karen Gillan, Michael Sheen, Soledad O’Brien, Howie Mandel, Filip Hammar, Jim Lampley, Fred Armisen, and David Copperfield along with tennis greats John McEnroe, Chris Evert, and Aaron Williams’ adopted sister Serena Williams. 7 Days in Hell is a raunchy yet hilarious mockumentary from Jake Szymanski.
Wimbledon 2001 featured a first round game between British tennis prodigy Charles Poole and the American bad-boy Aaron Williams as the latter came out of retirement to face the prodigy following a comment on television during a Swedish gay orgy. The film is about the game and what happened in those 7 days where so much was at stake in a first-round match as it involved sex tapes, cocaine, an angry Queen of England, streakers, and all sorts of crazy shit. Yet, it is told in a documentary-style where Williams’ adopted sister Serena is interviewed as well as a few biographers and experts in the sports that talk about Williams and Poole’s respective rise to fame but also the events that would lead to their legendary meeting.
Murray Miller’s script is told in a back-and-forth narrative style about the early lives of Poole and Williams as the latter is described as a reverse version of The Blind Side where a black family take in an orphaned white boy and teach him to play tennis where he would become the sport’s bad boy in the 1990s. In the former, here was a British kid who was forced to learn tennis by his mother (Mary Steenburgen) as he would turn pro at 15 but all of his gift on the court would only make him look dumb and lose a girlfriend who would later become a famous supermodel. At the same time, Poole would have a strange encounter with a famous TV host (Michael Sheen) while Williams’ antics at a Wimbledon in the mid-90s would force him to quit the game and go into a downward spiral. The people who are interviewed range from fashion designers with poor taste, David Copperfield, and all sorts of strange people.
Jake Szymanski’s direction definitely plays into the style of HBO sports documentary with its usage of archival footage and the way people who are interviewed are framed. Much of it is straightforward yet Szymanski does infuse some style as it plays into the antics of Williams with some very strange animation and other things that add to his bad boy persona. There’s also element of spoof and parodies of British TV shows as some of the elements are borrowed from exploits of other players. The tennis matches themselves are shot in a straightforward manner but with an air of ridiculousness that makes it very unbelievable. Overall, Szymanski creates a very silly but hilarious sports mockumentary about two tennis players who played the longest game ever that lasted 7 days.
Cinematographer Craig Kief does excellent work with the cinematography to capture the look of Wimbledon in the day along with some stylish shots of Williams‘ sex-tape and documentary-like footage of Poole in the days leading up to the match. Editors Dan Marks and Pat Bishop does nice work with the editing as it has elements of style with rhythmic cuts and montages. Production designer Todd Jeffrey does fantastic work with the set designs from the Wimbledon tennis courts to the hotel rooms and such where the characters are.
Costume designer Joanna Konjevod does amazing work with the costumes from the clothes that Williams wears including his ball-less underwear. Visual effects supervisor Elliott Jobe does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects into the look of some of the archival interviews as well as the hilarious Taiwanese animation. Sound designer Zach Seivers does superb work with the sound from some of the sound effects of the tennis matches to some of the craziness that is heard from the crowd.
The casting by Haley Marcus Simpson is brilliant for the people that appear in the film such as tennis legends Chris Evert and John McEnroe, current tennis star Serena Williams as Aaron’s adopted older sister, HBO sports correspondent Jim Lampley, journalist Soledad O’Brien, comedian Filip Hammar, and the magician David Copperfield who all play themselves in very funny ways. Other notable small roles include Lena Dunham as a former Jordache president with very bad taste, Will Forte as Williams’ biographer, Fred Armisen as British tennis expert Edward Pudding, and Howie Mandell in a hilarious performance as Prince Edward, Duke of Kent who would be assaulted by Williams during a ceremony. Karen Gillan is wonderful as Poole’s ex-girlfriend Lily Allsworth as a supermodel who loved Poole when he was young and later had an affair with Williams.
Mary Steenburgen is terrific as Poole’s very neglectful mother Louisa who would force her son to become a tennis prodigy and not have him care about his education and well-being. Michael Sheen is a riot as British TV host Caspian Wint who acts shit-faced on booze and cigarettes while being sexually-attracted towards the then-15 year old Poole. June Squibb is amazing as a foul-mouthed version of Queen Elizabeth II who wants Poole to win as she offers him a knighthood only to get very angry when he is unable to really beat Williams. Finally, there’s the duo of Andy Samberg and Kit Harington in their respective roles as Aaron Williams and Charles Poole. Samberg gets the showy role as the wild bad boy with a mullet as he manages to be a fucking riot with his antics as well as not being afraid to have sex with anyone or anything. Harington plays it straight in the role of Poole which makes it hilarious as Harington sells Poole’s stupidity as well as his poor attempt to sound smart in mispronouncing the world “indelibly”.
7 Days in Hell is an extremely funny sports mockumentary from Jake Szymanski. Featuring a great cast and a hilarious take on the world of tennis, the 45-minute TV special is something fans of tennis will see as well as having the chance to laugh at a sport that is often known for being classy. In the end, 7 Days in Hell is a remarkably hilarious comedy from Jake Szymanski.
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