Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

For Love of the Game

Posted on

Kevin Costner, For Love of the Game

For Love of the Game

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
PG-13
runtime:
138 minutes
performer:
Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, Brian Cox, John C. Reilly
director:
Sam Raimi
author:
61780
genre:
Drama, Romance

We gave it a C

In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner returns to his favorite metaphor of sport as heroism: A player with balls striving for personal perfection is, Costner suggests, cinema’s purest image of the kind of unwavering loyalty, irony-eschewing directness, physical mastery, individual initiative, and commitment to teamwork that best represents American manly (subtext: Republican?) virtues in a society where cataclysmic (subtext: Democratic?) change is never for the good. ”You’re like the old guys,” a teammate tells Billy with admiration, reminding us — as this pennant-waving, old-fashioned movie does time and again — that glory is still available to a man (and even a movie star) in midlife.

And if this bombastic, crowd-pleasing baseball drama rouses us — how could it not, it so lovingly fetishizes every moment in one heck of a game in one heck of a season of America’s national pastime — well then, so much the better for Costner the movie star in midlife, a complicated player who feels he’s misunderstood by the Hollywood front office.

After fulminating about the awfulness of change in stuff as torturous as ”Waterworld” (in which anarchic violence caused a man to develop vulva-like gills) and ”The Postman” (in which anarchic violence led to really late delivery of catalogs), it’s a relief to have Costner expressing his incontrovertible personal values back in the 20th century. I just wish that the bases weren’t so heavily loaded in Billy Chapel’s favor — that we might be allowed to empathize with his human weaknesses a little more before rewarding him for his strengths. I just wish Costner trusted fans of the game to catch the spirit on our own.

Depressingly, for a plot propelled by a love story, ”For Love of the Game” sure strikes out when it comes to Billy and Jane’s (Kelly Preston) romance. Theirs is a longtime relationship the pitcher reviews in his head while on the mound (when he’s not muttering about batters), letting us know how much he loves her, with a faithfulness and ardor that’s impressive — or would be if the other half of the couple had any substance to call her own.

”For Love of the Game” has been directed by Sam Raimi, a filmmaker (and baseball lover) who, from ”The Evil Dead” through last year’s low-key yet exciting thriller ”A Simple Plan,” usually makes great, controlled use of kinetic gusto. I don’t know what clubhouse confabs with star and studio brought Raimi to this temporary impasse. But in this particular game, Costner’s determination to avoid change keeps this baseball movie at a low line drive when it might have knocked one into the bleachers.

Comments