Boomer Bust

Nothing if not a structural film, For Love of the Game unfolds as sore-armed Billy is pitching a perfect game against the Yankees in New York while pondering the unhappy trajectory of his five-year-long affair with headstrong Jane. Flashbacks alternate with strikeouts. (Although the movie is a daunting two hours and 24 minutes long, the key scene is less than 30 seconds. Preston, smoothing Costner's hair as she cradles his head in her lap: "Do you believe in God?" Costner, after a slight pause: "Yes." And cut! God has got to be relieved.)

Costner must feel like he invented baseball in Bull Durham and brought down its commandments in Field of Dreams. I don't mind For Love of the Game's ragging on obnoxious Yankee fans but it is pretty churlish that, in all the hubbub over Billy's fictional accomplishment-scarcely more amazing, if you think about it, than the idea of Kevin Spacey's fortysomething zhlub nailing Mena Suvari on his living-room couch-none of the real-life color commentators have the good grace to evoke the Yankees' own recent perfectos, David Cone or David Wells. Instead we get Vince Scully going all incantatory: "He's pitching against time, he's pitching against the future, he's pitching against his own mortality." Yeah, yeah, he's pitching you a screenplay.

Fear and loathing in suburbia: Birch and Suvari in American Beauty
photo courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures
Fear and loathing in suburbia: Birch and Suvari in American Beauty

Details

American Beauty
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Alan Ball
A DreamWorks release
Opens September 17

For Love of the Game
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Dana Stevens
A Universal release
Opens September 17

Sam Raimi made his bones with Evil Deadjust about the time Billy supposedly reached stardom with the Tigers, but this sentimental epic is a new sort of horror film. For Love of the Game is designed to put a baseball-sized lump in your throat. Well before that, however, you may feel like putting a lump on Kevin Costner's head.

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