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Game 6 (2005)




On October 25, 1986, alma mater, Colgate University, played Columbia at Baker Field in New York City. The Red Raiders were an appalling 0-6, but the Mets were tanking the World Series to the Red Sox so it seemed like the best entertainment option of the day. By the time we'd wended our way back downtown at the end of the evening it looked like things were over, but we left the tv on to see the last few handfuls of dirt tossed onto the coffin of what was easily the best team in the history of New York Metropolitans baseball. Twenty minutes later we were out in the street banging garbage can lids and exulting with throngs of New Yorkers who poured out into the streets to vent their emotions.

This came on the heels of the Game 6 in the NLCS, where the Mets had toiled for 16 innings before putting away the Astros and avoiding what everyone knew would be their third loss of the series to Mike Scott. This was back in the day when playoff games were still played in daylight, and the game's later innings coincided with the 5pm rush hour. Papoers the next day carried stories of crowds forming around electronic stores with tv sets in the windows and of a group clustering around a limo where the chauffeur was cranking the volume on the little set in the backseat.

Of course, the Red Sox had generated their own drama. This, you'll recall, was the team that had required Dave Henderson's heroics to defeat the Angels. And, added to it all, you had the meerting between what have been referred to as the Athens and Sparta of American sport: Boston and New York. The Sox were then still in search of their first championship since selling Babe Ruth and the Mets hadn't won since the fabled '69 season. It was a postseason that commanded attention generally and a World Series that seemed likely all along to produce history.

In the film, Game 6 (available on YouTube above), Don DeLillo uses that October 25th as the backdrop for his screenplay, adapting some of the rest from his novel Cosmopolis. The story concerns a playwright, Nicky Rogan, who is a Sox fan despite being a native New Yorker. He's been successful writing light comedy but has decided to try his hand at a more serious work. His marriage is falling apart because of his philandering, including sleeping with his wife's gynecologist. And he faces the prospect of a notoriously savage critic sitting in judgment on his new play. Over the course of the film, Rogan--played by Michael Keaton--spends much of his time in cabs trying to navigate the City, though it's never clear that he has actual destinations. He meets up with his daughter, his wife, a friend and fellow dramatist who's never recovered from a withering review by the critic, his father, his lover (Bebe Neuwirth in a scene that explains what Frasier Crane saw in her), and various and sundry. At one point, in a typically DeLillian turn, Nicky and his friend are driven indoors when an underground pipe explodes, spewing asbestos all over the city street.

This Opening Night just happens to coincide with Game 6 of the World Series and Nicky's obsessions with past Red Sox failures becomes intertwined with fears of his own failures and he develops a dread of the review and the final score to come. He ends up watching the game in a bar rather than attend his own play. The Sox having succumbed to their demons, he goes in search of the critic--notoriously reclusive lest his victims seek revenge--for a grand confrontation.

As one would expect from Mr. DeLillo, the story here is pretty uneven and it's terribly talky. Nor does the time spent in taxi cabs seem well-suited to the movie screen. Overall, it seems more like a stage play itself. Likewise typical of the author, most of the ideas are left underdeveloped, such that the viewer may strain to make connections and associations that the author never thought through fully. But...but...along with a good soundtrack by Yo La Tengo, there's another music that pulses beneath the plot, there's the radio build-up to that night's game and then Vin Scully calling the telecast. And even though we know what happens, or because we know, it still torques up the tension. If most of us will be inclined to approve of Nicky's decision to watch the game instead of sitting through a play, even his own, we do get some sense that his work is important to him in the same way the game is to the fans. The parallels are hardly exact and such as there are awkwardly presented, but the game itself is so compelling we get the picture.

Ultimately, the whole thing is salvaged by the final showdown between Nicky and the critic--played by Robert Downey Jr.--and the inevitable plot twist. If the best thing Mr. DeLillo ever wrote was just the Miracle at Coogan's Bluff section of Underworld--as suggested by the fact that it was excerpted into a stand alone novella--then this is probably the second best. It's fair to wonder that such a highly regarded author should be so dependent on great baseball games as settings for his only worthwhile work, but at least he's chosen wisely in these two instances. Nor is he alone. After all, John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu and Robert Coover's Universal Baseball Association are all we'll read of them in fifty years too.

(Reviewed:07-Aug-09)

Grade: (B-)

Websites:

See also:


    -FILMOGRAPHY: Michael Hoffman (IMDB)
    -INFO: Game 6 (IMDB)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Game 6
    -FILMOGRAPHY: DonDeLillo (IMDB)
    -SCRIPT: Game 6 by Don DeLillo (The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)
    -SHORT STORY: Still-Life (Don DeLillo, April 9, 2007, The New Yorker)
    -INTERVIEW: For the Love of Game 6: An Interview with the Cast and Director (David Dylan Thomas, Mar 10, 2006, BlogCritics)
    -INTERVIEW: Don DeLillo: The quiet American: Don DeLillo is one of the biggest noises in US literature, but the man behind the masterpieces shuns the limelight. (John Freeman, 21 April 2006, Independent)
    -INTERVIEW: WISE GUY: DON DELILLO: The novelist on baseball, technology, and how French philosophy has infected the White House. (Kevin Gray, April 2006, Men Style)
    -INTERVIEW: Q&A: Don DeLillo: It's not as easy as it looks: DeLillo talks about writing plays, watching sports and movies, and defining love and death (John Freeman, March 5, 2006, SF Chronicle)
    -PROFILE: And quiet goes the Don: Don DeLillo started out as a parking attendant; now he is being hailed as the author of the Great American Novel and labours days over one sentence. What does he think of his fame? (Helena de Bertodano, 13 May 2003, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: For Game 6 (metacritic)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Carina Chocano, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Neil Genzlinger, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Leba Hertz, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Ed Park, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Jeffrey M. Anderson Combustible Celluloid)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Allen Barra, NY Sun)
Borrowing an idea from his 2003 novel, "Cosmopolis," Mr. DeLillo has his central character spend most of the story in a taxi stuck in traffic. The device worked on the printed page, but it makes a film as excruciating as watching your team's middle reliever walk the bases loaded after inheriting a four-run lead. (At one point, someone behind me in the theater hissed, "Why the hell doesn't he just get out and walk?")

    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Nick Schager, Slant)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Ty Burr, Boston Globe)
In terms of demographic appeal, "Game 6" has an uncommonly narrow strike zone: literary-minded Red Sox fanatics who recall with awful clarity exactly where they were on the night of Oct. 25, 1986. Within those limits, though, it's an inside-the-park home run -- a small, lovingly overwritten comic drama about fate, failure, and primal longing. To put it in words a Sox fan would understand, the movie hurts good.

    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Peter Rainer, CS Monitor)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Mark Asch, The L Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Harry Forbes, Catholic News Service)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Ron Wilkinson, Monsters & Critics)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Robert Denerstein, Rocky Mountain News)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Elisabeth Donnelly, Tribeca Film)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (Lance Mannion, New Critics)
    -REVIEW: of Game 6 (D. L. Groover, Houston Press)
    -GOOGLE BOOK: Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
    -EXCERPT: from Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo (John Updike, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (James Wood, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Graham Caveney, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Walter Kirn, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Robert L. McLaughlin, Review of Contemporary Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Rob Walker, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Richard C. Walls, Detroit Metro Times)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Kyle Minor, Antioch Review)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (ROBERT WEIBEZAHL, BookPage)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Kate Morrison, Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Sam Leith, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (George Walden, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Laurence Daw, The Modern Word)
    -REVIEW: of Cosmopolis (Rob Cline, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: for Cosmopolis (Reviews of Books)

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