After 19 years of playing the game he's loved his whole life, Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel has to decide if he's going to risk everything and put everything out there.After 19 years of playing the game he's loved his whole life, Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel has to decide if he's going to risk everything and put everything out there.After 19 years of playing the game he's loved his whole life, Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel has to decide if he's going to risk everything and put everything out there.
Part of it is the tight, real-time structure -- the whole movie takes place in a man's head while he pitches a perfect baseball game on the mound. It therefore combines the tension of a thriller with the poignant emotions of an elegy.
But what I loved most about this movie is that there are no clichés. Kevin Costner's character, Billy Chapel, is not a "sports underdog." It's very clear he is a great athlete who has had a great career, and that he can walk away at any time with lots of money and lots of respect. The only reason that pitching the perfect game matters to him is purely for the perfection of his art -- for the love of the game.
At the same time, not all the action is on the baseball diamond. In the romantic drama, Kevin Costner does much more than play the usual Costner "nice guy." Billy Chapel can be cold, egocentric, and difficult -- just like any other creative artist. But he always surrounds himself with people who are strong enough to challenge him and help him stay grounded. It's no exaggeration to say that the supporting cast in this film -- John C. Reilly as the catcher, Kelly Preston as the girl friend, and Jena Malone as the girl friend's adorable teenage daughter -- are very much the stars. They really set Costner up for an unusually mature, disciplined performance. Just the way Chapel's team mates set him up for the perfect game! This movie wasn't that well received by the critics. I remember one frightfully cultured fellow at the NEW YORKER sniffing that Costner's character is "arrogant." Note well that if an artist or an intellectual is cold and demanding, it's okay. But athletes should be jolly, ape like simpletons, the kind who know their place. This complex, poignant movie is actually quite subversive, since it forces you to realize that baseball is a thinking man's game and that athletes (and their working class fans) are not nearly as stupid as the real simpletons who write for the NEW YORKER.
- Oct 12, 2006