Directed by Michael Hoffman
Written by Don DeLillo
There are some games in baseball history that are so memorable they don’t even need explanation. Most of them involve the Red Sox and Yankees (“Aaron flippin’ Boone”, “Bucky Dent”, etc.), but some of them don’t (“The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”). So leave it to the movies to build and entire story around the night of one such memorable game in New York: “Game 6”. Referring, of course, to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when the Amazin’ Mets miraculously came back to beat the Boston Red Sox, on the verge of breaking a 70 year World Series drought, to force a game 7 to decide the champion, Game 6 was one of the films in this Baseball marathon I was more curious about, having never had the pleasure of seeing the film before.
In somewhat of a non-connected precursor to Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman, Game 6 follows a playwright, Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton), the day that his new Broadway play is set to premiere. Terrified of not only the possible critical response from the town’s most notorious reviewer (Robert Downey Jr.), but also a pending stumbling block for his lead actor (Harris Yulin), a spat with his wife (Catherine O’Hara), a tenuous situation with his daughter (Ari Graynor), checking in with his father, consoling a fellow playwright’s (Griffin Dunne) breakdown, striking a relationship with a young actress (Shalom Harlow), and finally the impending doom and gloom of his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, looking to clinch their first World Series title since 1986, made easier with the consolation of a friendly taxi driver and her grandson, Nicky Rogan struggles to find his confidence.
Game 6 is a small movie in terms of its ambition and scope. Taking place in a day in the life of its main character, it does manage to bring together many characters, themes and events to culminate much in the same manner as the title suggests. In many ways, Game 6 is representative of Rogan himself. He struggles to win the big game, having good seasons, but always stumbling when it comes down to crunch time. But I am unsure whether it all amounts to anything worthwhile. Certainly there is a level of truth behind not only Nicky Rogan but also Keaton depiction of him. The same can likely be said for Downey Jr.’s loopy, strange, yet haunted critic Schwimmer. Yet the film feels oddly slight given the hefty subjects it posits. I couldn’t help but feeling like there should be more to it than what we see, what we are given.
Of course, the film is representative of Game 6 of that fateful 1986 World Series. Of course it is. Like Rogan’s star actor, the Red Sox are a great team, but when it comes time to perform, they freeze, just as Peter Redmond stumbles when he comes to the line “This could be it.” I’m sure DeLillo and Hoffman intended this line to land with an impact to suggest, a sense of what is to come. The end. A very painful, heartbreaking end to both Rogan’s career as a playwright and the Red Sox World Series hopes. But I couldn’t help but think about the same phrase on different terms. About two thirds through the film I found myself uttering the same phrase, “This could be it.” as though there would be little more to the movie than what I was already seeing.
To be clear, this is not a baseball movie. Despite finding this title on many lists when researching titles for a baseball movie marathon, the only involvement baseball has in the film is the real life Game 6 of the World Series. And I fear DeLillo and Hoffman put too much weight on this event to carry the film, resulting in a rather lazy and unsuspenseful, unremarkable scene where Rogan is watching the game instead of at opening night for his new play. Even the climax of the film feels staged and fake, though perhaps the staged aspect is planned? Whatever the case, it seems a cheap resolution to an otherwise insignificant story. Keaton is fine, and Downey Jr. is wasted in a rather peculiar role. It just seems like nothing comes together quite the way I might have hoped for Game 6.