Volume 18 • Issue 43 | March 10 - 16, 2006

Film

“Game 6”
Written by Don DeLillo
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Opens Friday at Regal Cinemas Union Square
850 Broadway
800-326-3264 x628

Kindred Media Group

Michael Keaton plays Nicky Rogan, a rising playwright and a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, whose newest play is opening the same night as the infamous Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

More than just a Game

By Steven Snyder

By its title alone, “Game 6” all but promises a simple sports movie. Really, this is a story about how we perceive sports and, through that perception, life itself.

There are those who treat sports like a life and death affair, each win or loss serving as an affirmation of one’s existence, until the day they understand that the outcome of a ball game doesn’t matter in the long run. When we first see rising playwright Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton), it’s clear he hasn’t yet reached that epiphany.

Rogan is a Red Sox fan in 1986 New York City, and his team is tragically about to blow the World Series in one of the most memorable sports blunders in American history. He’s also constantly hopping in and out of cabs, relaxing in the back seat during congested rush hours, telling his driver about his days of owning a cab. Somehow he made the transition from the one anxiously battling traffic up front to the one enjoying the ride in the back, but when it comes to his team, the Red Sox, there is more at stake than just a game, a win, or a World Series. To win the Series would be his moment of transcendence, of completeness.

He stops obsessing over the game long enough to remember that his new play is also opening that night. Everywhere he turns, theater colleagues remind Rogan that with the opening of a new play comes the dreaded review by the phantom theater critic (Robert Downey Jr.) who can ruin Rogan’s career with one swipe of the pen.

As the day progresses, Rogan confronts a stream of other surreal forces, from sewer explosions to his father’s failing memory. As this chaotic motif plays out again and again, it becomes clear that “Game 6” is interested in discussing something far more universal than a baseball game. This is a story about embracing fate, about being able to accept whatever may come, and about learning to trust that the universe will work out as it should.

Directed by Michael Hoffman and based on an impressive script from first-time screenwriter Don DeLillo, they both seem committed to showing the parallels between the existential crisis of the Red Sox fan that day in ’86 and the many day-to-day struggles we all endure. As “Game 6” makes these comparisons, there is a poetic quality to many of the film’s segments that will win over even those who know nothing of baseball lore. And as Hoffman flips the equation in the final minutes, sending a drunken Rogan racing to confront a destiny he refuses to fear any longer, “Game 6” takes the conversation to the next level.

The best genre films defy their genres — “Star Wars” is about a whole lot more than science-fiction and “The Godfather” is no mere mob film. While “Game 6” has its share of stumbles, trying to squeeze in a bit too much philosophy, it unapologetically swings big and rises above the ranks of the average sports picture. Thanks to Hoffman’s patience, DeLillo’s poetry, Keaton’s endless charm and Downey Jr.’s gleefully bizarre performance, here’s a film that succeeds in being both interesting and insightful.

And since the Red Sox finally took home the pennant two years ago, even Boston fans can endure the flashback as well.


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