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For Love Of The Game
Maybe I'm looking at this film through rose colored glasses. Sam Raimi is one of my favorite directors, a real talent with visual ingenuity and a penchant for silliness. With last holiday's bleak A SIMPLE PLAN, Raimi gave up his EVIL DEAD past and churned out the most satisfying dramatic thriller of last year. He is certainly growing by leaps and bounds as a storyteller, and his latest film, FOR LOVE OF THE GAME, is another surprise for those of us who are fans. A truly elegant, dashingly romantic, white-knuckled look at baseball and matters of the human heart, GAME represents what a true Hollywood soap opera should be, effective.
Kevin Costner plays Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers heading for the mound for may be his last time ever. The team owner has sold the organization to a corporation and they have plans to trade Billy. His arm continues to fail him more every time he steps up to thrown. And to top it all off, Billy must deal with his tempestuous relationship with Jane, a woman he met by a broken down car on the side of the road five years ago and has yet to fully commit to. With all these thoughts swirling inside Billy's head, he unknowingly begins pitching a perfect game. Unable to keep his mind clear, Billy thinks back on his life during the game and considers the mistakes he has made and the people he has met.
Told mostly in flashback, LOVE OF THE GAME is first and foremost a baseball movie. While being knocked for his recent professional choices (yeah, I liked THE POSTMAN, say what you will) Kevin Costner seems to have been crowned king of the baseball flicks. Ron Shelton's BULL DURHAM is pure genius, the best baseball film ever. FIELD OF DREAMS is more like GAME, both share a strong heartbeat and retaining a smart enthusiasm for the sport. Costner has been the glue that held both films together. He's always been a good actor, only reaching brilliance once (DURHAM). He has the rare charm the many actors forget to consider. While not technically proficient, Costner knows screen charisma well. GAME gives us a desperate Costner performance, one which lets the actor take his guard down for once. His Billy Chapel is a man used to success, yet unsure how to use it to his advantage. A man who can hardly imagine himself consumed by anything but baseball. It's a great performance from Costner. My only hope is that public opinion doesn't tarnish the acting for the paying crowd.
Kelly Preston has the more troublesome task of shining brighter than Costner. A working actress for sometime now, this new film feels like the first time Preston is really acting. I enjoyed her supporting work in 1998's underrated JACK FROST, and GAME finally puts her front and center. She bounces effortlessly of Costner, and the two - while skittish at first - melt into a nice chemistry that packs more emotion than I expected. The loopy John C. Reilly (BOOGIE NIGHTS) and Jena Malone (STEPMOM) are also quite pleasant in small roles.
Working with even more restraint than his SIMPLE PLAN, Raimi brings to the table his gift for camera placement and visual tenacity. The baseball scenes in GAME are very romantic, the title doesn't lie. A self-professed fanatic of baseball, Raimi's love of the game shows in each shot. With noted cinematographer John Bailey, the two create a pristine looking film. The stadium scenes are both frightening cinematic and realistic at the same time. The look of the film might not register with many people, but I couldn't help but to admire such attention to detail.
Screenwriter Dana Stevens made quite an impression with her spare and warm CITY OF ANGELS remake. What she brings to GAME is the feeling of courtship that I enjoyed in Costner's last film MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. Costner and Preston really show the genesis of a relationship, warts and all. The structure of flashback that Stevens uses to tell the story isn't as unfortunate as it sounds. It's all a rather nice mix of familiar baseball melodrama and a hearty dose of Hollywood soap opera. Stevens proves once again that she has a wonderful ear for romantic entanglements.
Call me a sucker for the obvious, but FOR LOVE OF THE GAME really worked for me. I really was moved by the story and enjoyed all the nuances and quirks. This classy film might not have a hero with a chainsaw for a hand, a crispy scientist with a reliance on synthetic skin, or a quickdrawing Sharon Stone. What it does have is strong emotional resonance. A audience film that the mainstream will love and the arthouse will abhor. I'll take that any day.-------- 10/10
This film is much more than a beautiful film about baseball. It's about life....about the continuity of life... about moving on... about taking stock of who you are, and who you are going to be. Billy Chapel stands there, quietly, introspectively, doing what he has always done, what he wants to always do, but knowing at the same time, through his reflections and his actions, that things change nevertheless. At the crux of the pennant game for the Yankees, this Detroit pitcher stands on the pitcher's mound, knowing, seeing, the flow of life. His team sold, knowing his days for the Tigers are over, that his catcher will likely not be there again, that his great love is leaving, that her daughter has grown, his friend playing now for the Yankees, even the last pitcher he faces - who began as a Tiger bat boy for the team his father played for, the Tigers - a boy whom the announcers say has no idea of what this moment is, although he does, his team owner watching the last great game of summer... deciding... about the rest of his life. Through his comments, his thoughts, and his reflections, he evaluates not only where he is going, but who he is and what he will be. And at the precipice of the rest of his life, a perfect game in the balance, he finds it... what his life means. This film never fails to make me cry.
This has to be one of the best movies I have ever watched and watched and... well, you get the picture.It is a revealing account of relationships and feelings and trust. Set during one major league baseball game, a man relives the past five years of his life from the pitchers mound. He realizes, over what may be the course of a perfect game, that his life has been anything but perfect. That the really important things in life are slipping away from him.This movie is full of life, it's sweet. It draws you in and holds your interest. I think the movie was underrated because of the subject matter. A romantic baseball movie? but that's just the surface. This movie goes very deep. If you give it a chance you will see that the reality of the setting and the people are extremely captivating, as well as fun. I can't think of another movie that has made me feel so good and so satisfied at the end. If you like baseball you can't help but love this movie. It's full of the most realistic ball playing I have ever seen in a film.If you like a sweet romance that doesn't have to rely on sex and nudity to tell the story, well, this is it. This has to be my all time favorite movie. I own it on vhs as well as dvd. The spotlight on location is a wonderful feature on both versions. It gives a fun look at the making of aspects. It also shows you interview clips from the professional ball people who were involved in the making of the film. I urge anyone who just wants to relax, enjoy a good story and feel better for watching it, to get this movie .
Why do I love this movie so much? I'm not a baseball fan. I didn't
really like FIELD OF DREAMS. And I hated BULL DURHAM. Yet this movie
just captivates me every time I watch it.
Part of it is the tight, real-time structure -- the whole movie takes place in a man's head while he pitches a perfect baseball game on the mound. It therefore combines the tension of a thriller with the poignant emotions of an elegy.
But what I loved most about this movie is that there are no clichés. Kevin Costner's character, Billy Chapel, is not a "sports underdog." It's very clear he is a great athlete who has had a great career, and that he can walk away at any time with lots of money and lots of respect. The only reason that pitching the perfect game matters to him is purely for the perfection of his art -- for the love of the game.
At the same time, not all the action is on the baseball diamond. In the romantic drama, Kevin Costner does much more than play the usual Costner "nice guy." Billy Chapel can be cold, egocentric, and difficult -- just like any other creative artist. But he always surrounds himself with people who are strong enough to challenge him and help him stay grounded. It's no exaggeration to say that the supporting cast in this film -- John C. Reilly as the catcher, Kelly Preston as the girl friend, and Jena Malone as the girl friend's adorable teenage daughter -- are very much the stars. They really set Costner up for an unusually mature, disciplined performance. Just the way Chapel's team mates set him up for the perfect game! This movie wasn't that well received by the critics. I remember one frightfully cultured fellow at the NEW YORKER sniffing that Costner's character is "arrogant." Note well that if an artist or an intellectual is cold and demanding, it's okay. But athletes should be jolly, ape like simpletons, the kind who know their place. This complex, poignant movie is actually quite subversive, since it forces you to realize that baseball is a thinking man's game and that athletes (and their working class fans) are not nearly as stupid as the real simpletons who write for the NEW YORKER.
I would have to say that I have seen very few movies better than For Love of
the Game. My favorite genre is Romantic Comedy. This wasn't a comedy, but it
was feel good. It was light drama and it was extremely well
Costner portrayed an aging baseball player with a romantic attachment to the game that reminded me of Robert Redford in The Natural - another movie I rated a 9. The symbolism of the movie was the notion of ending a romance for the game and transferring that romance to a woman. For him, at least, there was room for only one at a time. And, fortunately for her, his career was at the very end. Fortunately for us, we got to see his last game interspersed with flashbacks.
The movie was brilliantly done with respect to the actual game of baseball. I cannot recall having seen a sports movie that did such an excellent job of maintaining accuracy about the game. I honestly could have believed I was watching an actual game. The plays were realistic. The situations realistic. And, Vin Scully was sensational doing the play by play.
I've only rated a few movies as 10's in my life. One of them was Field of Dreams - another Costner vehicle. This movie wasn't far behind FOD. In fact, it was nearly as magical and it was a lot more romantic. Why the reviewers of IMDB only give it a 6.7 is beyond me.
This was one of those rare events where you find yourself clicking through
channels and luck upon the beginning of a movie so engrossing that the
completely stops until the credits roll. This is Costner's greatest
performance, with a depth of emotion that we've never seen
This is much more than a baseball film. It's a love story about love and baseball, and life and facing the future when you finally "grow up." It's about the choices behind us and the chances ahead.
I saw a sneak preview of "For Love of the Game," tonight, and I must say, I was thoroughly entertained by it. And not merely entertained in the respect of some "purely-made-to-entertain" movies, but this movie inspired emotion, one thing I think really makes a movie. If a movie makes you feel a certain way, whether it's anger, or happiness, I think it shows something. "For Love of the Game," did that for me. Costner's character, excellently portrayed in my opinion, loved baseball, and in turn, I loved his character. I loved the whole movie actually. It was funny at times, symbolic at others, and above all, it was quite enjoyable. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it a 10. Again, this is just my opinion, but I would definitely recommend this to anyone.
This movie is one of the very best character studies of an athlete. The script, the direction, and Costner's performance yield an insightful profile of a driven character. Driven but not a jerk, and so the course of the relationship developed between the athlete and Kelly Preston's character is credible and engaging. The ways in which the other players are brought into the episodes that tell us about the main character resonate for amateur players and other baseball fans. All the performances ring familiar and true. Vin Scully is given the green light on cornball baseball homilies, but just to have Vinny's voice seasoning the movie gives authority and authenticity throughout.
This movie didn't take long to get sappy and cheesy. It begins with a montage of Billy Chappel's (Kevin Cosner) life leading up to his final pitching performance in New York against the Yankees. Before the game, he finds out that the Tigers' beloved owner is selling the team and his girlfriend is moving to London. "There's a job there Billy. A good job. An editor's position." It gets worse. Before taking the field, he takes a whiff of his old glove and there it is, his first flashback to his childhood; playing ball in the back yard. As he's warming up in the bullpen before the game, his manager wants to start a young catcher, but Billy insists that his buddy Gus start instead. "If Gus doesn't play, I don't pitch." OK then. As the game rolls along, he flashes back to his romance with Kelly Preston and everything is just dandy. He's got a perfect game until, wait, what? The young prospect he met before the game that used to be his bat-boy comes to the plate... Only redeeming factor is the actual baseball action. Looks real enough and it was filmed in Yankee Stadium.
"For Love of the Game" is the story of one baseball player's final game
shown through flashbacks from the meeting of a beautiful woman up to
the final game in his career. It is a concept that could have worked if
the film had not fallen to the melodrama of its love story. Where it
manages to stay afloat is in its portrayal of its principal character,
Billy Chapel, played by Kevin Costner.
In one of the opening scenes, Billy is confronted by the team's owner, Mr. Wheeler (Brian Cox.) Wheeler informs Billy that he has sold the team and the new owners want to trade Billy. Since Billy is 40 years old and at the end of a poor season, Wheeler encourages him to retire. Not exactly what Billy wanted to hear on an exceptionally rough morninghis girlfriend Jane (Kelly Preston) never showed up for their dinner date the night before. Soon Jane calls and tells Billy that she is moving to London for a new job and that she can no longer be with him. She tells Billy that all he needs are the ball, the plate and the game to get by.
With that in mind, Billy heads out to the plate in Yankee Stadium to pitch the last game of the season. He throws well but the slightest reminder of the past triggers bittersweet memories, from meeting Jane, the flourishing of their relationship and their ups and downs. Then Billy remembers when he cut his hand in a sawing accident. Thanks to Jane, he manages to get to a hospital and save his hand. But as Billy recovers, he is faced with the notions that he might never throw again. Unwilling to accept this, he pushes Jane away. This is the point in the present that Billy starts to feel the pain in his arm and his throwing becomes a problem.
From the pain his arm, to his regret at loosing Jane, we see Billy struggle to top his career. But he swallows his emotions and pain and remembers the words of his father, "simply play catch, Billy. Just throw the ball." With that, Billy manages to pitch the perfect game. But naturally, one thing is missing, Jane and it all leads to inevitable airport confrontation ending. The problem with this movie is not in poor performances, but rather in the sappiness of its love story. Preston plays Jane as the kind of woman who can make the simplest things complicated, but with a genuine tenderness that cannot be denied. She is quirky but cares for Billy. But as the film goes into a montage of their early years, we see just about every relationship cliché play out. She asks him the foreseeable questions"Do you believe in God? Have you ever gotten your heart broken?" And my favorite, "Do you like the dark meat or the white meat, because the dark meat is the fatty part and it's not good for you." Between the rolling of my eyes and my cringing at the embarrassment of these questions, I could not help but ask myself, shouldn't they have established all of this long before now?
The biggest problem is the ending. The two kiss, and Billy says to Jane that he loves her. Jane responds, "I never believed it." Billy replies, "Believe it." The two kiss some more and fades out. It leaves you with nothing to embrace and the picture becomes instantly forgettable. You simply want to walk away saying, "Well, there it is."
What I do like about the movie is that the central character is faced with a life changing decisionending his career, his life's passion. Baseball is what he loves and he cannot let it go. Ironically enough, director Raimi would bring this same concept up in his excellent film, "Spider-Man 2," five years after "For Love of the Game." As Peter Parker/Spider-Man says, "Sometimes we have to give up the thing we want the most to do what is righteven our dreams." That is a tough decision for any person to make when they are part of something they love and for one reason or another, it has to end. In film, if done correctly, this can make for a powerful storytelling riddled with conflict and ultimate resolution. Unfortunately, that is not done here.
"For Love of the Game" is neither entirely bad, nor entirely good. The concept of facing the fork-in-the-road choices work well, and adding a love story was to be expected. However, the film becomes half chick-flick and half a story about moving on. If it could only find a better balance with improved writing, it could have worked out. **1/2 out of ****
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