7 Days in Hell is an HBO TV mockumentary about the greatest game of tennis ever played, a seven day affair between American Aaron Williams (Andy Samberg) and Englishman Charles Poole (Kit Harrington). The movie was released on July 11th, coinciding with Wimbledon 2015. Somewhat in the spirit of wild sports movies like Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore, this fictional documentary comes off as sweet, cameo-chocked, and wholly palatable. It was a welcome comedic foil to the real games of 2015 Wimbledon, which saw elation in Serena’s inevitable victory, and felt defeat for the Swiss Maestro.
Serena Williams, who dominated the real court at 2015 Wimbledon, leads off a massive list of cameos. According to 7 Days in Hell myth, Aaron Williams is the adopted son of Richard Williams, and third lion in the Williams pride. At only forty-two minutes long, this TV short film is definitely worth a watch. Who doesn’t want to see Howie Mandel as a haggard duke or Lena Dunham as Williams’ wild-style stylist, Lanny Denver? Cameo appearances are crucial to 7 Days in Hell. As a fictional sports documentary it has two kinds of scenes: mock tennis footage and interviews. Lengthy and hilarious rallies, on court high jinks, and phone messages from the Queen aside, the “interviews” are the substance of this short.
Headlining the supporting cast is the handsome Harrington, who plays dullard-milquetoast Englishman tennis savant Charles Poole. Harrington doesn’t have many lines–it’s possible half of them are the word “indubitably”–but it’s effective comedy. Poole’s stammering and doe eyes are a lily-white background for Samberg’s wild Williams, a canvas on which he paints, in high contrast, a Pollack-Agassi human hybrid. Though sometimes it seems like Harrington struggles to force himself to play a dull emasculated dweeb, this is not an indictment. Harrington overall does quite well and delivers some lines with perfect comedic timing and inflection.
The plot or story of this movie is very simple. A tennis match goes on for seven days, and comedy ensues. There are delays for everything from rain, to coitus, to gruesome injuries. But the best moments of this HBO special are definitely the cameos. Will Forte, playing a veteran tennis journalist, is amazing. He excels as usual, nailing every line and every facial cue. Perhaps even better is John McEnroe’s interview. This isn’t McEnroe’s first time stealing a show; as a professional tennis player, he was as tempestuous as he was talented and his flare for acting saw him take over an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Another cameo that deserves mention is Michael Sheen as Caspian Wint, a perverted old English sports show host. Sheen gets to play the creep, fondle Harrington’s abs, and turn every word into a stuffy British-ism. When asked by a young Charles Poole why he smells like fire (cigarettes), Sheen’s character responds: “…because I rage like a furnace inside”, before taking a suggestive drag of his limp cigarette. Fred Armisen’s posh All England Club character, Edward Pudding, remarks in perfect upper-class English denial-speak, “Caspian Wint could be a bit of a rapscallion”.
There are plenty of other great moments in this forty-two minute special, and even more cameos that aren’t spoiled here. Among the highlights to look forward to are watching Samberg relive a classic SNL-style sketch moment through his character, a hilarious courtroom sketch aside, and Samberg’s Andre Agassi-inspired attire. Yes, the movie drags occasionally in some of the ending bits, but overall it’s a pretty tight forty-two minutes, ending as it should, with Aaron Williams waxing poetic on tennis, love, and hate, “the great quesadilla in the sky”.