Movie Review: Sportin’ Life

Movie Review: Sportin’ Life

14th January 2021 Off By Ewan Gleadow

Copyright: MUBI


With consistency in their frequent collaborations with one another, Sportin’ Life should offer fans of Abel Ferrara and Willem Dafoe an extra hour of intense and engrossing content.

Offering the two in candid conversation, peeling back the layers of their relationship in a comfortable hour suggests a great deal of interest.

Two friends that have bonded for years, discussing their appreciation for one another, detailing the highs and lows of their working relationship. It has an intense chemistry and charm to it, but Sportin’ Life wavers over time, not quite picking apart the relationship naturally or interestingly, not as much as it would like to, anyway. 

Mired by its shoehorning of the coronavirus pandemic, Sportin’ Life struggles with its meaning and purpose.

As great as it is to have more content from Ferrara, questioning the quality and consistency of his work here is inevitable. A collation of music, news stories, conversation and performance is thrown together without much thought or understanding.

Intercut with work from his latest collaborations with Dafoe, Tomasso and Siberia, which are far more interesting than anything else Ferrara pieces together here, so obsessed is he with making a documentary on documentaries that he misses the mark of poignant or potentially interesting moments. Instead, he effectively brings a collation of clips and speeches that don’t fit together in any narrative sense.

Perplexing and underwhelming it may be, but there are brief pockets of undeniable interest.  

What is intensely clear, though, is that this is a passion project.

Ferrara always brings passion to the screen, but the way he operates throughout Sportin’ Life defines him and his cast as fumbling and underwhelming.

Somewhere deep within this, buried away under pockets of rambling and unco-ordinated moments, is a genuine passion. A drive to get to the bottom of how documentary crews operate, and how they experience the world around them. Ferrara doesn’t manage this, but his intensity and attempts throughout are at least admirable. 

Hanging out with Dafoe and Ferrara would be a clearly engaging and interesting time, but even this short direction outstays its welcome.

A documentary on the act of making a documentary is an interesting concept, but the presentation and execution of such promise is a bit of a let-down.

Random, spiralling and inconsistent, it is surprisingly similar to Totally Under Control, in the sense that watching it offers up the same muted points that audiences have already churned over in their mind for the past year.

Cowering behind the sofa, watching the horrors unfold, it’s not good for the mind or the soul.

Sportin’ Life offers an amalgamation of artistic desire and passion flowing thicker and faster than any point to documentary filmmaking, and Ferrara ultimately fails to understand how reality is captured in pockets of cinema.