You Had a Bad Day

You know those days when nothing seems to be working out. Well, I’m having one of those days. I’ve spent so much time writing and re-writing this review that I finally had to write an intro about how I can’t seem write right. It’s really frustrating. “Game 6” is not even a well-known movie and it’s probably not going to interest much readers. Now, I doubt as to whether I should really write it. But I’m such bad quitter; I tend to finish what I started. It’s like life – I’m stuck with it.

In the movie “Game 6,” Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton) is also having one of those bad days. October 25, 1986 – to be precise. That evening, his Broadway play is to premiere and it’s looking pretty bad. The aging lead actor (Harris Yulin) is forgetting his lines (“This could be it”) and a notorious theater critic (Robert Downey, Jr.) is expected to attend. That night also happens to be a historic event in baseball. It’s Game 6 of the World Series (NY Mets vs. Boston Red Sox), with Boston leading 3-2. This doesn’t exactly thrill Rogan, who’s a long-time disappointed fan of Red Sox. He believes that his team, cursed since 1918, will botch the series somehow. Is there really any reason to be so hopeful?

“Game 6” examines the behavior and the mind of a person who believes his life is cursed. To illustrate Nicky’s mentality, the movie skillfully plays out two metaphors. His life plays like a game and it plays like a play. Nicky approaches baseball and life the same way: with loopy paranoia and bruised hope. Imagine being a serious Red Sox fan and all those years of heartbreak. It can lead a man to glorify his own misery. It’s at a point where it’s easier to believe that life is cursed. That way, at least, God is paying you some special attention.
In the field of theater, Nicky’s glum philosophy ripens even more to rot his mind. Here’s an arena where you can work on a personal play for years, and in just one night, a respected critic with vicious word choices can obliterate your entire career.

The harrowing beauty of “Game 6” is in Don DeLillo’s brilliant screenplay. It pervades with primal hunger that stirs in the gut, as if DeLillo (and maybe he is) is also telling a very personal story like Nicky. While the film sometimes meanders, he perfectly captures genuine moments. Watch the agitating scene where Nicky watch the remarkable Game 6. He drops and picks up his hope so many times; the man is an exhausted mess. And at one point, as any hard core fan does, he believes he has the power to influence the outcome of the game. Maybe God would let his team win if he only he has faith.

“Game 6” is an affecting film that will sting and nurse one’s wounds of pessimism. I don’t think the movie’s a downer at all. It didn’t make me cry or feel depressed. Rather, I was enlightened and I feel a bit more grown up in relating to the character. There have been times when I felt helpless, thinking life is a game played by humans, but only decided by God. When you arrive at such conclusions, you’ve got to be weathered by experiences.

The casting of Michael Keaton is fitting here. Perhaps his familiarity with a fizzled career really prepared him for this movie. He owns the role; I can’t envision any popular actors pulling this off. Even Downey, Jr. is effectively weird as the antagonist, who may even a have more troubled life than that of the protagonist. Alas for a movie with solid performances and writing, a movie about disappointments might be cursed to be a disappointment. This indie movie was hardly in anybody’s radar and that’s an even further proof why the world sometimes sucks. Maybe this review will spread the word somehow. But I’m not going to get my hopes up.

Grade: A-

CAST
Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth, Catherine O’Hara, Tom Aldredge, Ari Graynor, and Roger Rees
Screenplay by
Don DeLillo
Directed by
Michael Hoffman
Rated R for some language and sexuality

MOVIE AFTERTHOUGHT:
You Can’t Handle the Truth

In “Game 6,” Downey plays Steven Schwimmer, the hated critic on Broadway. But he isn’t vilified in the movie at all. Schwimmer explains that he simply writes the truth (as the way he sees it, of course). Critic as a profession is hardly something appealing. (Will we ever see a movie where the hero is a critic?) But since I’d been reviewing films, I have tremendous respect for the job. I haven’t been consistent with my reviews, partly because growing up hardly makes anyone consistent. Any movie I love now, I may hate afterwards and vice versa. And the criteria for liking a film is really based on your preferences. The only thing I’m sure of is whether I like the film or not. In terms of recommending a movie, I become more cautious. The hardest aspect in criticism is the courage to be mean (although, there are people who like to do so and it’s not healthy). And in contrast, praising a film can also be hard, fearing that I’d sound like some loony using superlatives. The thing about criticism is that you’re never the final word. The reader can criticize you right back. And maybe such thoughts can sometimes keep me humble and some apprecaition towards hard work, even if I deem it bad.

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