' ' Cinema Romantico: Game 6

Friday, October 25, 2013

Game 6

---We interrupt your regularly scheduled Friday's Old Fashioned for a review of a film I watched several months ago in order to pay homage to an infamous date in baseball history.

Michael Hoffman's “Game 6” is a strange feeling movie, but then writers and sports fans are strange people and “Game 6” is about a man who is both at once. He is Nicky Rogan, played by Michael Keaton in a performance of cunning likability, a noted New York City playwright which is at odds with his simultaneous status as a devout since-he-was-six-years-old Boston Red Sox fan. His new play is set to debut on Broadway October 25, 1986 – that is, the same night the baseball will go rolling through the legs of Bill Buckner, causing the Red Sox to fall to the New York Mets in Game 6 of the World Series. Talk about omens.

Written by acclaimed author Don DeLillo, the film is verbose – mostly in a good way – and does not lack for want of a theme. It follows Nicky as he cuts to and fro all over New York City, hopping into cabs and hopping out of cabs, always finding time to discuss how he used to drive a cab and keep it clean and keep it moving (shades of Max), running into various characters – his daughter (a rebelliously chic Ari Graynor) and an old playwright pal Elliot Litvak (Griffin Dunne, who exec produced) who has fallen on such hard times we half expect to find him eating right out of a dumpster. A character says to Elliot, bluntly, “What happened to you?”

What happened to him was Steven Schwimmer (Robert Downey Jr.), theater critic, reclusive harbinger of doom for all playwrights, whether aspiring or already successful. One blood-drawing review sent Elliot spiraling into a depression from which he never recovered. Schwimmer, of course, is set to review Nicky’s new play and Elliot is there is to issue dire warnings, like a Macbeth witch with a Walkman, although Nicky seems unconcerned. “I’ve got a good life,” he says. Does he? Although his beloved Red Sox are but one win from their first World Series championship in over 70 years, Nicky, often babbling to himself, has seen them lose so many times he seems to be attempting to convince himself that they will lose again even as he simultaneously clings to the desperate hope that they will not.

Failure and Obsession are the lifeblood of “Game 6” as it asks over and over that age-old question: Why do we care so much? Why can one review destroy a life? Why can a team and/or a game “pound in your head like a hammer of fate”?

Whether the film intends to truly make us wonder if Nicky plans to skip his own premiere – where the kind but old leading man struggles to remember his lines – for the game is perhaps open to debate, but any true fan of a particular sports team (which I am) already knows full well what he'll choose. The arts are important, as important as anything in the whole wide world, in my humble opinion, but more important than Game 6? Ha! And, in fact, knowing the outcome only enhances Nicky’s plight, as if it is a modern day tragedy he is authoring in his head. This story would not have felt right had Buckner made the play and hit a home run in the next inning to win.

At first glance the film’s weak point seems to be Nicky’s odd befriending of his latest cabbie, the oddly named Toyota Moseby (Lillias White) and her young son, who watch Game 6 alongside him, offering encouraging platitudes. “Baseball is life. Life is good.” What the hell is this, you wonder? But stick with it and eventually the way in which Nicky, whether by denial or something else, chooses to envision his own partly happy ending, I think gives away the fact these characters are mere apparitions. He is a writer, after all, and the writer, it seems, has imagined his own Magical Negro (coinage: Spike Lee) to offer the moral support he so desperately needs in these trying times.

The end comes cloaked in the guise of convenience and melodrama, but I liked it. The film, smartly, does not pretend to have answers to its questions, content with merely offering a hypothesis or two, but very conscientious of how sports can cut through a myriad of differences to momentarily unite us as utterly unlikely families of commiseration.

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