IN THE OPEN
by NM Kerry Lawless
Question: What do movies like Chess Fever, The Great Chess Movie, Knight Moves, Dangerous Moves and Searching for Bobby Fischer, have in common? Answer: They were all written and directed by men. In The Open is the first and only feminist chess film, written, directed, and produced by women. If you like violent car chases, this film is not for you, but if your taste runs more toward romance and chess tournaments, then you'll love this movie!
This is an 'Indy' kind of low budget production, but it works on several levels. It has no special effects to dilute its rich character development. There are three and a half separate romances going on throughout the movie, and it works because the story has opened up the characters to us. We feel hopeful for each of them. When "Ricki transform(s) from a confirmed tomboy into a gorgeous young woman" to win the guy of her dreams, the audience is definitely on her side. We care about Kyle, who in his first tournament wins the first six games, only to lose the seventh because of his emotional turmoil over what he perceives as his older brother's jealousy. This is not 'an edge of the seat kind of movie', but I got pretty close as I waited to find out whether he was going to recover himself. Even the minor characters are interesting! Gary is a double geek ... into both chess and Star Trek. And ... the 'Male Chauvinist Pig Award' goes to Tom the Tournament Director.
Happily, Laura (Becker) Sherman (former Editor of the southern California chess magazine Rank & File) both wrote and produced In The Open. As a USCF Expert, she brought authenticity to the story. Some of the characters even moved the pieces like chess players! The super concentration while the clock was ticking versus the relaxed atmosphere between rounds was very similar to that of real chess tournaments. Her insights into how to improve tournament results by developing a more aggressive style were right on target. Her take on women chess players, however, was an eye opener. Why do low-rated women players get 'hit on' more than high-rated women players? Because there are a lot of male chauvinist pigs afraid of women who can beat them at chess!
The movie, like any other, had its low points: a 'Grandmaster' who obviously wasn't, and some of the real chessplayers (who were in minor parts) trying to act ... and barely succeeding. But, I don't blame either Laura or her partner Mandy Wildman (who directed), because I would rather see chessplayers and not actors moving pieces around the 64 squares. All and all, I'm giving this movie three out of four stars. Check it out.
Oh, I forgot. ... Laura is also one of the lead actresses in the movie.
Postscript: Laura read this review and laughed. Seems practically all the "real chessplayers" in the movie were, in fact, actors. My appreciation of these actors' abilities just went up several notches.
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