Jason Kohn was always going to be challenged into making this movie entertaining. In fact he probably regrets it now, judging by the end result.
The main challenge for Kohn was to keep the movie truthful, base it on fact. His subject matter, Nick Bollettieri, has dedicated his life in taking credit for the work of others. He calls himself the greatest coach in the world. Is he even a coach?
The movie revolves around Bollettieri's relationship with Andre Agassi, whom Bollettieri has himself taken credit for coaching. Agassi refused to take any part in this movie.
The problem is this: How credible is Nick Bollettieri in describing himself as the coach of ten world number one players? Yes he founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy with a lot of financial help from his friends. His coaching staff was sound, but Bollettieri was no coach.
In fact it is very fair and accurate to say that most of this documentary is a fabrication of the truth of who Nick Bollettieri is and in fact was.
History is all Bollettieri has left, and he loves to be the one who who writes it. He fails to mention in detail his children or ex wife's, whom he treated badly. In fact he simply turned his back on his children.
What about his alleged use of escort agencies. In fact it's well rumored his addiction to escorts and prostitution in the Bradenton/Sarasota where he has lived for years went on for many years. He was a frequent customer to apparently many of the escort agencies that were in practice in that area.
His alleged use of alcohol was a well known fact. One comical story from several of his coaches tell of how he used get himself so drunk, often partying the St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, that he used to argue with his own reflection in mirrors which usually ended up in him punching the mirror.
Conveniently left out from the documentary was the firing of his son in law Greg Breunich along with tennis director Gabriel Jarimillio from IMG Academies in January of 2009. Both were handcuffed and escorted off campus. Allegedly both were responsible for the theft of at least 15 million dollars from IMG.
IMG choose to hush hush the affair. Maintaining the reputation of their institute being their priority, allegedly keeping all three from doing serious jail time.
Described by many as the biggest pretender in tennis, Kohn instead chooses to use the word controversial in labeling Bollettieri. In fact 30 minutes into the movie and your wondering what or who convinced Kohn into taking this project on?
This will not be something he wants to be remembered for.
Bollettieri, who waves his hands around like he’s swatting ground strokes, punctuates every sentence with “baby,” and probably still asks people to call him “coach,” is nothing if not a raconteur; there’s a lot of Robert Evans in this guy.
He complains about being interviewed for 14 hours (which Kohn has trimmed down to 89 minutes with some fat to spare), but it’s obvious that he loves talking about his glory days.
His glory days based on facts he himself delivers and comes up with. An egoist that does not see beyond his selfish self serving needs. In fact, at times the documentary makes for uncomfortable viewing, as Bollettieri's transparency as a self absorbed manipulative egoist becomes only too apparent.
He basically lives in his own reality!
The trouble with making a movie about someone like him is that it takes about three seconds to understand everything there is to know about what makes him tick. Egoists are seldom very complicated, and there’s only so many ways you can learn how this one has suppressed his conscience.
All of the players featured here are more interesting than the man who trained them, and it’s clear that Bollettieri has only agreed to do the movie because he’s making a last-ditch attempt at cementing some kind of legacy.
Andre Agassi seen above with Nick Bollettieri categorically refused to take any part in this documentary
A legacy based on what? Pretense? Taking credit for the work of other coaches? Honesty and realism are about as distance from his perspective as the truth itself. In fact his life has been based on lies for many years now. Very little of what he takes credit for is either true or close to the truth.
He basically makes up an existence based on lies. What other word can be used?
Even the literature, books published under Nick Bollettieri's name have been allegedly written by his coaching staff. The Bollettieri Handbook in which he claims to have written, was supposedly the work of his coaching staff.
His coaching staff which were in fact IMG coaching staff. Bollettieri in fact he sold the Academy which he actually didn't own as it was built with money borrowed in 1987. IMG bought and developed the Academy from 1987. Bollettieri was from then on an employee of IMG.
Credibility is really what Bollettieri fails to convince viewers of, he characterizes "The Big Pretender", trying to convince you he is the genuine article.
He undoubtedly is and will be remembered as a unique character. The first and only one in tennis to play the part of the world's greatest coach, when in fact he is a novice coach at best. The Big Pretender of tennis, the show must and undoubtedly will go on.
He lives for the attention, loves the camera, and is always ready for a selfie. He plays the part of a wannabe celebrity to an almost desperate degree.
Beneath that surface of showmanship, the harsh and real truth of Bollettieri is there to be seen. That reality is that he lives firmly in the past, telling stories based on his own reality and truth. There's a certain sadness to that existence, an existence to which the academy he founded, owned by IMG, pay him now a small salary to sell the dream.
He exists now at IMG Academies as a mere employee earning around 75K a year, telling anyone that wants to listen about his glory days. He will tell you a story about Agassi, Courier and so many other players that simply don't return the compliment.
They have their own versions, the truth that often contradicts the storyteller.
Maybe that's why Kohn chooses to use the word controversial in describing Nick Bollettieri?
As a piece of tennis lore, “Love Means Zero” is absolutely vital. As a character study about a professional tyrant, it’s almost as frail and leathery as Bollettieri himself.
Kohn eventually engineers a moment of reckoning for his subject, much like the one Oppenheimer created for Anwar Congo at the end of “The Act Killing.” The difference is that one of these men is genuinely horrifying, and the other just wasted his life thinking that he had to be.
As an individual Bollettieri comes across as pathetic, he's a car salesman trying to convince you he's a celebrity, it really fails at the first hurdle. He's the epitome of what's wrong with tennis in this country. The con artist in it for the money with his hand out at all times.
“Love Means Zero” premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It will air on Showtime on June 23rd 2018.