8 – For Love of the Game

Kevin Costner has been down the baseball-movie road twice before, with Field of Dreams and Bull Durham. His latest foray, For Love of the Game, doesn’t quite approach the magnitude of those two; it’s kind of a mixed bag. Costner plays Billy Chapel, a 40-year-old baseball pitcher at the end of a brilliant career. His team, the Detroit Tigers, has just been sold to corporate investors, and the old owner thinks it’s time for Billy to call it a career. There’s only one game left in what’s been a miserable season for Detroit, against the dangerous New York Yankees, who can clinch their division with a victory. Chapel’s on the mound of course, making what might be his final major league appearance.

While Chapel pitches his game, scenes depicting his life up to that moment – specifically his relationship with Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), a magazine writer. Jane’s beautiful and headstrong, but she and Billy have a love-hate relationship, since he is unable to love her more than the game of baseball. While Billy struggles on the mound, we see how their relationship develops, and the struggles he feels while pitching starkly mirror the tribulations of their relationship.

This is not an unflawed production, however. For one thing, Costner has been rumored for years to only cast women in his films who are either less-talented than he is (no mean feat!) or who are less overstated; in other words, actresses who may steal the film from him need not apply. Kelly Preston falls into the former of these two categories. There is no single scene in which Preston’s Jane offers anything sincerity. I kept getting the feeling that he was acting – ok, I know, she IS acting, but it’s not supposed to look like it! Preston’s not terrible, but she would have looked a lot better if her male lead had been a little more commanding in his performance. The book on Costner for years has said that he’s an actor who continuously underplays his roles. There isn’t much expression on his face – which is getting more wrinkly by the second, it appears – has he ever heard of Retin-A? – and his emotions are about as deep as a shot glass. Maybe with a better actor, the overall affect of the movie would have been more pronounced. As it is, the movie’s a little lackadasical. That said, the directing itself is masterful; Sam Raimi (known mostly for his Evil Dead movies!) shows off his talent in his most mainstream movie to date, and he is much more of an asset than Costner.

So what else is wrong with it? Well, the film is manipulative to a degree – although if you allow yourself to be manipulated, I guess you’re just as much to blame. I myself am proud to be manipulated! I say, “Manipulate me, O Lords of Cinema!” Even so, I felt a creeping feeling that my emotions were being toyed with. Did I really give a damn about these characters? Not when I saw how they behaved. Also, the score was a little presumptuous and overbearing. But that’s just nitpicking.

PRO: Good theme, good story, excellent direction, keeps your attention, realistic in terms of the baseball scenes

CON: Costner, Preston, score, and it’s just so damn manipulative!

For Love of the Game: 5

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One Response to “8 – For Love of the Game”

  1. paul_knightly Says:

    this one post very good. i enjoy very much!

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