For Love of the Game full movie review - Effective Hybrid of Chick Flick / Sportsmovie
I really began to resonate when the beautiful Basil Poledoris score opened this film. The man is a musical genius, in my humble opinion. He can make a real turkey of a film into a much more enjoyable experience. In this case, he only enhanced an already great film.
I approached this film with low expectations. After 'Water World', 'The Postman', and the perfectly dreadful 'Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves', I wondered how Kevin Costner could appear before the camera with a straight face. Fortunatly, he found the perfect script, supporting players, and director to redeem his career.
'Billy Chapel', Kevin's character, is totally absorbed in his career as a professional Baseball pitcher. Billy has excelled at Baseball all his life. Unfortunately, he has mostly failed as a human being. Here is a man nearing 40 years old who has never established a stable relationship with any woman. He has been content to trade on his fame and wealth to enjoy the party scene whenever the loneliness of his existence threatens to enter his awareness. Somehow, the example of his father and mother having a loving and stable marriage never seems to penetrate his awareness as a desirable state for himself.
We see that the closest relationships 'Billy' has are with his team mates 'Gus Sinski', 'Davis Birch', and the owner of his Baseball Team. Billy feels such loyalty to his team that he passes up more lucrative opportunities with other teams to remain a Detroit Tiger. When 'Davis Birch' succumbs to the lure of a higher salary with the hated rival New York Yankees, Billy feels great anguish at the loss of a friendship of a man who will now become a rival player.
Sadly, the Detroit Tiger franchise is saddled with less than stellar players. The owner is unable to compete financially with the richer teams to hold onto his better players. Billy's buddy, 'Gus Sinski', is probably playing his last season. He is hitting too poorly and runs too slowly to keep his position on the team. Only Billy's intervention with the manager is able to keep 'Gus' on the starting lineup for the last game of the season. The owner of the team realizes that the only way the Tigers will become competitive is to sell the team to a corporate enterprise with pockets deep enough to pay competitive player salaries.
Kelly Preston played a magnificent role as 'Jane Aubrey'. Here is a woman of obviously humble roots who has clawed her way into the fringes of the high fashion world. She starts out as a pregnant girl of 16 abandoned by the boy who fathered her child. Somehow she has been able to build a career and a home for her child. But mother and daughter both still long for a relationship with the right man to complete their lives. There is no mention of 'Jane' having any parents or siblings, so that part of her life is left blank in the film.
'Jane' meets 'Billy' when he stops to offer help when her car breaks down on an expressway while she is starting out of town on a vacation. She resists his help at first, but he persists and invites her to attend a baseball game as his guest. 'Jane' is deeply attracted to 'Billy' and winds up sleeping with him on the first date. 'Jane' agrees to meet 'Billy' on his next trip to New York, but is deeply conflicted about the relationship. 'Billy' and 'Jane' continue to meet whenever his team is playing in New York.
There is no mention of 'Jane's' daughter 'Heather' until late in the film. 'Heather' had a more prominent role in deleted scenes that would have made more sense being retained in the film. How 'Jane' could be going on a vacation in her car without 'Heather' is difficult to understand. 'Jane' visits 'Billy' in Florida training camp, again without 'Heather'.
'Jane' and 'Billy' fall out after she encounters him with another woman in his apartment at training camp. 'Jane' finally contacts 'Billy' in desperation after 'Heather' runs away from home after a fight with 'Jane'. 'Billy' looks up 'Heather' in Boston and brings her home to her mother in New York. "Billy' and 'Jane' reconcile and 'Billy' starts to develop a real affection and relationship with 'Heather'.
I watched the film in disbelief at the stupidity and insensitivity of 'Billy Chapel'. On the few occasions when he actually took the time to connect emotionally with 'Jane' her face showed such angelic love and devotion, any fool would have worked like crazy to keep the magic alive. Instead he often stepped on her heart in his self-centered way. 'Billy' had to hit rock bottom emotionally before he would face the fact that he needed a woman's love to fill his empty heart. Why any woman would retain any desire to stay around after being hurt so often is hard to understand.
The baseball portion of the film is very beautiful. We see how 'Billy' and his team of second-raters rise to the occasion to play the perfect game. These players on a team with a losing season determine that they will go out on a blaze of glory. On sheer willpower they frustrate the godlike Yankees in their quest to clinch victory in their division. The Yankees will have one more opportunity and will no doubt claim the prize. A heart warming scene in the film was when the rabid Yankee fans were forced to acknowledge the magnificent accomplishment of the Tigers in defeating their team. They knew that the ultimate victory would soon be theirs anyway.
I suppose I love this film because it shows the power of the human spirit and that there is hope for even the most stunted personality to grow to maturity and find happiness.