PARK CITY -- For playwright Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton
), baseball is life. And since his team is the Boston Red Sox circa 1986, that means his life is about losing--big time. Game 6
, written by novelist Don Delillo and directed by Michael Hoffman, is a fanciful journey into Rogan's heart of darkness. It attempts to walk the fine line between despair and comedy, reality and imagination, and often succeeds. For audiences prepared to take the leap of faith and accept the unusual tone of the film, Game 6
should be a winner. Others may wonder what the fuss is about.
In Game 6
, DeLillo has adapted the hyper-real, postmodern style he fashioned for novels like Underworld
and The Body Artist
for his first screenplay. Things do not operate so much in the everyday world as the psychological realm where the inner life meets the street. So anything can and does happen with a logic of its own. Characters appear as if from off-stage and hold forth in wordy speeches more familiar to the theater.
On the eve of the opening of his latest play, and also the night of the fateful game six of the world series in which his beloved Red Sox will fall to the Mets in the most inglorious way, Rogan gets caught in an all-day traffic jam that is a metaphor for his own internal confusion. Although he is a successful playwright, he is fixated on failure, and the Red Sox are his chosen form of suffering. Since the age of six, he has been "carrying them on my shoulders," and can rattle off a litany of loses and near misses.
In the course of the day he conveniently runs into his teenage daughter (Ari Graynor
) when his cab pulls up next to hers, and his down and out friend, the playwright Elliot Litvak (Griffin Dunne
), who has fallen on hard times after the feared critic Steven Schwimmer (Robert Downey Jr.) panned his play. Rogan is terrified of the critic, who lives in an underground lair with a Buddhist motif, and hatches a plot to kill him. If this wasn't enough, Rogan's lead actor (Harris Yulin
) has a mysterious parasite in his brain that is causing him to forget lines.
It's a lot for anyone to swallow and Keaton has been given a mouthful of DeLillo's elegant if somewhat stilted language. In the face of the impending doom of his play and the Red Sox, Rogan's journey is to find faith and discover that life is good. When Boston first basemen Bill Buckner famously lets an easy ground ball roll through his legs and the Red Sox lose, it is an opportunity for Rogan to change the way he sees the world.
DeLillo and Hoffman have set Rogan off on a noble pursuit that may seem more important and personal to him than the audience. We simply don't care about the critic and his bad review as much as Rogan does, especially since Downey's character is more silly than imposing.
But even if the style does not always work, it is a heroic effort to do something different and thoughtful under extremely difficult circumstances. Game 6
is a good looking period piece shot (by David M. Dunlap) in New York for "well south of one million dollars." The cast, especially Keaton, who carries the film on his shoulders, is never less than fun to watch. Graynor has a lovely New York-know-it-all presence and Shalom Harlow
is stunning as an ethereal waitress who appeals to Rogan's better and worse selves. And as Game 6
suggests and the Red Sox have eventually proven, there is good reason to be positive about life, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
A Serenade Films Production, a Double Play Production in association with Vox3 Films and Shadowcatcher Entertainment
Director: Michael Hoffman
Writer: Don DeLillo
Producers:Amy Robinson, Griffin Dunne
, Leslie Urdang
, Christina Weiss Lurie
Executive producers: Michael Nizik, David Skinner, Bryan Iler
Director of photography: David M. Dunlap
Production designer: Bill Groom
Music: Yo La Tengo
Co-producers: David Bausch
, Nick Goodwin-Self
designers: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus
, Elizabeth Shelton
Editor: Camilla Toniolo
Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne
, Ari Graynor
, Shalom Harlow
, Bebe Neuwirth
, Harris Yulin
, Tom Aldredge
, Catherine O'Hara
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 87 minutes