Any diehard Boston Red Sox fan knows all too well the many humiliations that the team suffered for decades – at least until the franchise finally shook off the Curse of the Bambino by becoming World Series champions in 2004.
In the annals of Red Sox ignominy, perhaps no loss is more crushing than Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Pitted against the New York Mets, the Red Sox went into the 10th inning of that game with a two-run lead. The mood was electric, with Boston poised for its first World Series win since 1918.
Then came the inevitable. The Mets scored a run on three consecutive hits, and a wild pitch by Boston reliever Bob Stanley brought in the tying run from third base. What followed still haunts the collective memory of Red Sox Nation. The Mets' Mookie Wilson hit a routine grounder to Boston first baseman Bill Buckner. The ball rolled between his legs and into the outfield, allowing New York to win 6-5. The Mets, naturally, prevailed in Game 7.
Celebrated author Don DeLillo taps the metaphorical implications of that ill-fated game in his script for the aptly titled Game 6. Michael Keaton portrays Nicky Rogan, a successful playwright whose new work is premiering on Broadway the evening of Oct. 25, 1986 -- the same time that the Red Sox square off against the Mets for Game 6 at Shea Stadium.
This marks a real dilemma for Nicky, a long-suffering Bosox fanatic who can recite with masochistic abandon his team's history of heartbreaking losses. "They pound in your head like the hammer of life," Nicky tells some Mets fans at a bar. "You can analyze a Red Sox game day and night for a month and still uncover really complex layers of feelings, feelings you didn't even think you were capable of having."
But the World Series might just be the least of Nicky's worries. His best friend and fellow playwright, Elliott (Griffin Dunne), is in the throes of a nervous breakdown brought on by a preternaturally vicious review from a preternaturally vicious theatre critic (Robert Downey Jr.) who is slated to attend Nicky's opening night. Then there is Nicky's leading man (Harris Yulin), who has a brain parasite causing him to forget his lines. And if that isn't enough, our protagonist learns from his daughter (Ari Graynor) that his wife (Catherine O'Hara) is conferring with a divorce lawyer prominent enough to own his own submarine.
DeLillo's dialogue, while witty and finely honed, is steeped in a literary tradition that feels further confined by Michael Hoffman's stagy direction. For a movie ostensibly about baseball, Game 6 pitches an awful lot of talk our way -- and a good deal of it isn't convincing. As Nicky flits from episode to episode, the movie is too tidy and contrived for its own good. The viewer can almost see the puppet strings directing these characters around a Manhattan crowded with metaphors.
Still, if there is an actor who can sell such verbosity with ease, it is Michael Keaton, who turns in a superb performance as a man addicted to the romance of losing. He almost manages to turn Game 6 into a win -- almost.
The 1.85:1 widescreen is of solid, if unremarkable, quality. A few portions are a little grainy, while colors are a bit muted in some scenes. These minor flaws, however do not detract from the movie-watching experience.
Viewers can select between Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo 2.0. A talky movie, Game 6 requires only that DeLillo's smart and incisive dialogue be audible. For the most part, the sound is fine. The volume is inconsistent in a few spots. Subtitles are available in Spanish.
Director Hoffman offers a congenial and informative commentary. Considering that he is soloing it, the track is surprisingly expansive; he discusses everything from the project's origins to the rigors of a tight shooting schedule and shoestring budget. That said, there are a few unavoidable patches of dead air. Hoffman is a fine commentator, but it would have been helpful if there had been another participant with whom he could interact.
An informative 15-minute Making Game 6 featurette incorporates clips from the film and interviews with Hoffman, Dunne, Keaton, Graynor, co-producer Amy Robinson and others. While this mini-documentary certainly doesn't stray far from a typical promotional video, it is more illuminating than most and helps viewers appreciate the rigors of making a movie of this caliber for less than $500,000.
A curious extra is Game 6 Stories, scrolling text in which 10 hardcore Red Sox fans -- folks we've never heard of -- offer accounts of their suffering through that infamous '86 World Series game. All I can guess is that this must have looked like a great idea on paper.
The DVD includes a theatrical trailer.
Game 6 is a decent outing that warrants respect, but it falls short of true resonance. Despite a terrific pedigree, the film is too tightly contrived. Keaton's Nicky Rogan elicits our sympathy, but he's not terribly interesting -- nor do we ever get the impression that he really has much at stake, either with his play or the Series game.