You may think you’re not interested in a sturdy little dramatic comedy about the intricacies of the NFL draft process. But with Draft Day, you’re in the hands of a master.
Ivan Reitman, the guy who gave us Ghostbusters, Stripes, and, well, OK, Kindergarten Cop, sure knows what he’s doing: This isn’t so much a movie about sports as it is a riff on politics in the broad sense of the word, and the ways in which smart, insightful people play along to get along — and then change the game for the better by following their gut.
Kevin Costner plays the (fictitious) general manager of the Cleveland Browns, torn between making a flashy deal for a vain superstar quarterback (Josh Pence) and drafting a player and all-around good guy (Chadwick Boseman) who will make the team, and the profession, better in the long run. Plus, on the very day he needs to make this fateful choice, his much younger girlfriend and work underling, a supremely capable lawyer played by Jennifer Garner, announces that she’s pregnant.
I can hear all those knee-jerk older-man-younger-babe reflexes kicking in — but maybe your energy would be better spent actually looking at the way these two astute actors play out this by now standard dynamic. Garner, tough and tender at once, doesn’t make her character the victim for a minute. Mostly, we see her as a generally rational woman who suddenly has cause to question the rash mingling of love and duty. And Costner, who spent a long stretch of his career being as dull as he was good-looking, seems to be following the Richard Gere trajectory: He’s getting better as he gets older, having shed some vanity to reveal the bare skin beneath.
In Draft Day, he plays a man’s man who fumbles the ball but ultimately steps up to the plate — in other words, he’s a walking mixed metaphor, with all the deeply human uncertainty that implies.