By Eric Ian Goldberg | Comedy
4 lifelong friends play tennis each week despite grudges, injuries and death.

Four lifelong friends gather together every week for a game of tennis, in spite of their older age — and their constant bickering, grudges and cantankerous trash-talking.

But when one of them passes away, it changes their dynamic, especially as they search for a new partner to complete their doubles match and deal with the injustices of aging and mortality. Tensions between the two loudest friends — Sheldon and Warren — come to a head, as the lifelong group threatens to fall apart.

Writer-director Eric Ian Goldberg’s short comedy has its decidedly delightful quirks, both in the writing and the visuals, but it’s also grounded in the very real pathos of being human. More specifically, it’s about facing mortality and deciding just how you want to journey down the last stretch of road in the end.

These are heavy themes, but they’re handled with great buoyancy, finesse and plenty of wisecracking, trash-talking banter, especially in the performances by veteran character actors Mark Blum and Richard Kline, who play a particularly irascible pair of friends.

They bring to life a script that bristles with sharp, character-specific dialogue and a sly eye for the ways that competition, ego and the irresistible need to be right can derail a conversation and even a long-term friendship.

There’s also an understated flair in the visual sensibility, which blends the realism of an urbane Brooklyn comedy with the formal visual compositions that add a deadpan commentary to this tableau of old comrades and buddies.

Terrifically paced and highly enjoyable, “Fault” is less interested in burrowing deeply into individual characters than capturing the dysfunctional group dynamic of classically grumpy old men with a wry, affectionate eye. But as the quartet adjusts to its smaller numbers, they soon realize that perhaps bygones should be bygones in the long run… because there’s not much distance left to run, after all. It puts things in perspective, achieving an ending that is both poignant and endearing — though not without a little vinegar in the mix.

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