Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on March 10, 2006
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Written by Don DeLillo
Cast: Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth, Ari Graynor, Catherine O’Hara, Harris Yulin, Shalom Harlow, Nadia Dajani, Roger Rees, Tom Aldredge, Lillias White, Amir Ali Said
Have you ever been at home watching a movie, and about fifteen minutes into it realized that the story was not what you’d expected, and the direction that characters and events were headed differed from what you’d been told or led to believe? And the title of the film meant one thing, when you assumed it meant another? And because of this, your enjoyment of the film was dampened a bit, because the film and story you wanted to involve yourself in, and were looking forward to spending time with, didn’t take place?
That’s what happened to me recently with Game 6, where I somehow got it into my thick head that the story centered on a handful of disparate people brought together by their shared memory of the sixth game of the 1975 World Series, won by the Red Sox over the Reds when catcher Carlton Fisk launched a game-winning home run in the last of the 12th, and how that moment had affected their lives over the past thirty years. Sadly, it wasn’t quite that. Instead, the title referred to Game 6 of the 1986 Series, and the screenplay related to how one man coped with his recent separation, the opening of his new play, the fear of a critic’s scathing review of this play, and—vaguely—the dread of his team possibly losing the big game.
Michael Keaton plays Nicky Rogan, a playwright and Red Sox fan living in New York, who just so happens to have his latest stage play opening on the same night as the pivotal sixth game of the Fall Classic between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. Though we’re offered glimpses of an empty pre-game Shea Stadium, and the occasional voice-over of a radio disc jockey discussing the match-up, the majority of the film concentrated on Rogan’s stage production instead of baseball, and his interactions with his estranged wife (a seen-too-briefly Catherine O’Hara), his daughter (Ari Graynor), another playwright (Griffin Dunne), and of course, the worrisome newspaper critic (Robert Downey Jr).
Keaton was quite good as Rogan, displaying a more serious side to his normally hyperactive comedic roles, and it was nice to have SCTV alumna O’Hara brighten the screen for a few minutes, but director Michael Hoffman merely coasted through what was mostly a procession of over-scripted dialogue scenes, which hoped to wander into dramatic territory previously owned and operated by Woody Allen. And though there were times when his direction seemed overdone and contrived, I will say that I loved his wrap-up, where Keaton, Graynor, and Downey sat together and watched televised highlights of that night’s legendary sixth game, while an ethereal Yo La Tengo tune played along a nighttime city street and into the end credits. It’s too bad the entire film didn’t retain the aura of this wonderful, encapsulating moment.
Obviously, this was a pet project for director Hoffman, and I appreciate that it was done on a small budget with a helpful cast, but if you’re going to make a film about the 1986 World Series, and go as far as to call it Game 6, then it better damn well be all about Game 6! Otherwise, why not title your film Opening Night instead? Have Keaton’s playwright character juggling his play’s premiere, his impending divorce, and his distant daughter throughout the story, and by film’s end have him skip the play, dump the wife, and reconcile with his daughter by taking her to opening night of the new Red Sox season, which in turn becomes a metaphor for the fresh start to his new life.
Or if you’re a Reds fan like me, there’s this wishful variation: call the film Game 4, and have it spotlight Cincinnati catcher Johnny Bench’s two-HR performance in the fourth game of the 1976 World Series, won by the Reds in a sweep of the Yankees, and witnessed by four adult friends who traveled from Ohio to New York to see the game. Now that’s a Michael Keaton baseball movie I’d like to see; this one, however, felt a little too ‘forced indie’ for me, and was just a so-so offering with too much heart and far too little diamond. (5/10)