For Love of the Game (1999) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexuality
Running Time: 137 min.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, Brian Cox
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Dana Stevens (based on the novel by Michael Shaara)
Review published September 18, 1999
Kevin Costner plays future Hall of Fame pitcher named Billy Chapel, in the twilight of his career, who has one last game left to go before his probable retirement. During the game, he flashes back to important events in the last few years and during his childhood. Dominating his thoughts is Jane, a woman he has been having a romantic fling with for the past four years. Now Jane is moving to England and he must choose which he loves more, his lifelong career or the woman who has been in and out of his life. Oh, and he is flirting with a perfect game too.
Surprisingly, shock-director Raimi (EVIL DEAD, DARKMAN) does an adequate job in his first straight drama, and thankfully eschews his flamboyant flourishes to let the drama play out naturally. That's not to say he couldn't have done better, as the movie does tend to drag and has a few too many awkward moments. Still the story, as predictable as it may be, does deliver when it needs to and Costner is fantastic in his third go round in a baseball film. In the end it is a moving and intimate look at the life, specifically the love life, of a major league player that people rarely get to see. Curiously much of the stirring emotional moments comes, not from the romantic plot, but from the on-the-field "perfect game" drama. With Costner and Reilly's spot-on performances, as well as a thoughtful script such as this, it probably could have been a great film in the hands of a Ron Howard or Rob Reiner. Raimi isn't yet in that class, but considering his prior directorial leanings, the fact that it remains a good film is a credit to his maturity behind the camera.
©1999 Vince Leo