FIRST ONE IN – Review by April Neale

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Indie comedy First One In is a really funny film that uses humor to cloak female empowerment and hard won camaraderie.

Set inside the bizarro worlds of a reality TV series (reality series Survivor inspired the fictitious Grit) gone wrong, the story transitions to the competitive club tennis team scene and a high powered female-centric real estate office with pretty, perfect mean girls—who tennis on the side—are pitted against a motley crew of oddballs who have, ironically, the grit to take them on.

Madi Cooke (Kat Foster) suffers the barbs of cancel culture as she is cast off of the TV series Grit for inadvertently killing an adorable endangered fuzzy mammal because she thought it was a spider crawling on her in the middle of the night. Voted off the island so to speak, she walks the walk of shame. Now in free fall, Madi has to find new work, dye her hair and regroup from the tsunami of internet-fueled animus. She winds up with a new job at Mason Real Estate Agency, owned by Bobbie (Georgia King), an ego-centric, controlling, perfectionist who puts winning first.

There’s a lot to unpack in writer/director Gina O’Brien’s fresh take of a film, including many sly pokes at the nonsense women deal with daily, notably the hot house world of tennis club culture and the modern day sorority of middle aged women who work together in high stakes real estate and then who compete and cut loose.. But at its core, First One In is a true team effort in comedy, led by Foster and enhanced by her on screen nemesis, Bobbie. In a twist of alliances, Madi joins a group of misfit-ish tennis players who are an absolute riot as they prep for the do-or-die match against Mason and her nattering real estate shark minions.

The cast is cracking good, with actors Alana O’Brien, Catherine Curtin, Emy Coligado, Aneesh Sheth, Karina Arroyave, Josh Segarra, and Michael Ian Black. Foster shines in her role as Madi and her chemistry with the high strung perfectionist Bobbie, played by Georgia King is on point and never misses a mark. Bobbi heads up Team Elite, and after learning about Madi’s recent past, makes it her mission to swat her down hard. King was a standout in HBO comedy Vice Principals opposite Danny McBride and Walton Goggins, and she brings her A-game to this comedic film. The best parts of this comedy are the performances. This tight ensemble is blended together in a hilarious send up to tennis club culture, and a satire based on the win-at-all-costs insanity at the tennis club level.

Other performances to watch for are the motivational Tennis Pro Fernando (Josh Segarra), and perfectly turned lines teased out by Jane (Catherine Curtin). Put upon Ceecee (Emy Coligado) is a riot and Preeti (Aneesh Sheth) and Valentina (Karina Arroyave) round out this merry band of Team Spice Girl misfits that befriend Madi, who is reaching backwards in time and resurrecting her friendship with her best friend and former high school tennis partner, Ollie (Alana O’Brien).

It’s a terrific first effort from Gina O’Brien. Her take on the subtle cues women give each other in conversations and her ability to convey them in believable comedic banter and visually interesting shots holds promise for more excellent work to come. Don’t overlook this one.

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April Neale

April Neale is a film and television critic. She appears on “What’s On” KTVB Channel 7 (NBC) Boise for Idaho Today. She is the editor of IdaHome FLAVOR, a worldwide magazine featuring celebrity chefs and Idaho culinary bosses. Neale is also the Entertainment Editor for IdaHome Magazine.