In press notes for First One In, writer/director Gina Obrien talks about the “millions of women who gather to hit balls at each other” on tennis courts each day. They may not be very good. But they share this bond. First One In bats that concept around with just about as much power as those mediocre players.
Madi Cooke (Kat Foster) has had her life ruined. She has been branded an eco-terrorist for killing a cute, near-extinct animal while on a Survivor-like reality show. People protest outside her home. She loses her job because of the publicity. She can’t even get an Uber if she’s recognized. After a new hairdo, she applies to work as a real estate agent for Bobbi Mason (Georgia King). Georgia is obsessed with tennis. She only hires Barbie-doll looking agents who play tennis and help her win the club team championship every year.
Madi begins brushing up her game (she hasn’t played since high school) at a local tennis clinic with a group of rather frumpy and definitely non-competitive women. When their coach enters them into the tournament, Madi is torn between her new job and her new friends. Eventually the teams will face off, with not just a trophy at stake, but Madi’s future.
The film seeks to show that women can forge bonds and how that can help them overcome their barriers. But I have issues with the portrayal of women in this film. Bobbi and her team are vain, vapid, superficial, and just plain mean. Think of a group of middle school mean girls who are now grown up. Madi is stuck in being a victim through most of the film. Her cohort at the tennis center all seem to be aimless and incapable of really accomplishing anything. The only character who seems to be grounded and confident, Madi’s high school friend Ollie (Alana O’Brien) becomes a catalyst for Madi’s new found strength, but she is always too much in the background of the story to develop her effect on Madi.
The story becomes a battle between meanness and victimhood. The final resolution doesn’t really grow out of the growth and strength of the characters. It has more to do with Bobbi’s ultimate failure of being able to boss and intimidate others. Any growth Madi manages in the story is a biproduct of her success, not the other way around.
First One In is available on Amazon Prime Video