Rated R, 87 min. Directed by Michael Hoffman. Starring Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth, Catherine O’Hara, Tom Aldredge, Ari Graynor, David Guion, Roger Rees, Harris Yulin.
Novelist Don DeLillo debuts as a screenwriter in this film predicated on the events that occurred during the sixth game of the 1986 World Series – between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets – in which the Sox were on the verge of breaking the legendary curse of the Bambino until that fateful ball flew through Bill Buckner’s legs. The film’s not really about baseball per se but uses that game as a metaphor for the life of playwright Nicky Rogan (Keaton). A heretofore successful writer, Nicky’s new play is opening on Broadway at precisely the same time as the game is being played at Shea. The city is gridlocked with traffic and so through much of the film, Nicky is hopping into one slowly moving cab after another as he goes about town visiting his girlfriend (Neuwirth) and father (Aldredge), and having impromptu encounters with his daughter (Graynor), old friend Elliott (Dunne), and soon-to-be ex-wife (O’Hara). As a lifelong Sox fan, Nicky knows something is bound to go wrong – not only with the game but with his play too, and it’s most likely to be delivered in the form of the notorious new theatre critic in town, Steven Schwimmer (Downey Jr.). With elements this good, it’s therefore surprising that Game 6 is as flat as it is. Surely, DeLillo has never had a better interpreter of his language than Keaton, who dips into the author’s words like they were his own. The cast is terrific, with special kudos for Downey Jr. and Dunne, who create intriguing characters from a bundle of quirks. Yet there is no getting around the sketchiness of the supporting characters, and the women of the story fare less well (although Neuwirth’s bedroom scene in garters and lace is sure to leave a lasting impression). Director Hoffman (Restoration, One Fine Day) brings little to the table in terms of style and loses control of events in the tumultuous third act. The band Yo La Tengo is on board for musical contributions that are heard mostly as transitional, mood-setting electronic drones. At its best, Game 6 captures the mood of New York in the way a Spike Lee movie like Summer of Sam does or Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant – which unraveled to the backdrop of a different World Series played over the radio – does. Game 6 is ultimately a curious dud, although it makes us anxiously await DeLillo’s next time at bat.
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