27 October 2001 | ehol
Attention to detail makes a movie for baseball lovers
"Pastime" is a baseball movie, pure and simple, and if you don't like baseball, you'll probably find it dull, cliche, or both. Made with a low budget, no big names (though the list of cameos will impress any baseball fan) and an avowed distaste for Hollywood baseball movies of the day, it's emphatically a movie for fans, and nonfans will find it as dreary as a pitching duel that slops into extra innings. But baseball lovers will appreciate the attention to detail and love of the game that's evident in every scene.
The detail is rich but abstract, and comes through not in recognizable pieces, but in familiar warm feelings. The main plot sets the movie in baseball's postwar era, and bits like an ancient team bus and vaguely recognizable songs seem to plant the movie in the 1950s, the places are deliberately generic all-American--it's hard to tell if this is California or the Midwest or Anytown, USA, but it doesn't matter. This abstraction keeps "Pastime" focused on its story, but never makes it seem fake--we *think* we recognize these places, because they're so familar, but they're never quite placeable.
The characters are similarly familiar, almost to the point of cliche (well, ok, naming a black player Tyrone *is* cliche) but thanks to a strong, heartfelt performances by the lead actor William Russ, they become archetypes, rather than cliches. You'll instantly recognize Russ's Roy Dean, but won't confuse him with any player you've ever seen on any field.
None of this matters if you don't like baseball, though. If the baseball that's woven through the movie doesn't grab you, you'll be left with a story that's predictable and a little dull. But if the baseball does grab you, it will be like watching a dream matchup in the World Series with someone who loves the game as much as you do.