Pete Can’t Play Basketball is a short film about exactly that. In a world where all that matters is a certain ball game, the main character is unable to play.
Written, directed by and starring Nick Borenstein, we’re thrown into this small comedic world which resembles popular TV mockumentaries and the office work consuming our 9 to 5. Nick’s style is one that has got his films into festivals like Tribeca, and I think it works because of the familiarity of it all. We live our lives and assume that they are boring compared to everyone else’s, but this film fantastically romanticises the mundane which I love and know that any other viewer will appreciate too. We’re pushed into Pete’s life which is far from paradise. His co-workers are rude, his boss won’t give him a chance, and he is narrating his story to us, hoping someone will just stop to appreciate him and listen. We all live our lives like this at times, feeling trapped in a rut, and even though this story focuses on basketball, we can all see how we slot into this story and make it our own. I liked the narration and the crispness of the overall look, how it made it feel quite utopian, even though we are living it.
People really are obsessed with sport, and when you’re not, it can feel like those people are very scary. Bill Shankly, who was manager of Liverpool Football Club (I know it’s not basketball but stick with me) once said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… it is much, much more important than that.” As someone who doesn’t care that much for sports apart from the gymnastics during the Olympics, watching a short film like this can feel very full on, so I really feel for the character of Pete as we see him giving his all but it not working. The script is really clever in taking us on this journey of ups and downs with him, from being able to make the whole team laugh, to getting a Christmas present really wrong.
It struck me how simple the idea was, yet with a fantastic script and brilliant actors to help bring each eccentric character to life, the short felt far from simple. Flicking through moments in time, with a chirpy score to add to the atmosphere, watching it put a huge smile on my face. It’s cheesy to say I felt inspired by it, but I think I am a little. Whether we love our job or are only there to pay the bills, we can all relate to the idea that we don’t feel good enough or appreciated, but it’s fun stories like this that remind us it isn’t all doom and gloom.
The film ends brilliantly, really confirming with us that there are things in life that we’ll be great at, and others that we’ll never seem to be able to do, but it’s alright. Nick’s story and direction is one I really enjoyed watching and will definitely be one I think of when something I know I won’t be able to do comes up. If Pete can get through it, so can I.