A strong cast doesn't quite overcome the inherent challenges contained within the awkward, self-aware script for "Game 6" penned by award-winning writer/playwright Don DeLillo.
"Game 6" takes place on October 25, 1986, the day of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. With the Red Sox up 3 games to 2 with a chance to end 70 years of futility, playwright Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton) is also facing his own demons as his latest, most personal play is preparing to open only to be reviewed by a theatre critic, Stephen Schwimmer (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is so hated he must wear costumes to shows and carries a gun for protection.
DeLillo's script attempts, only mildly successfully, to equate the losing nature of the Red Sox with that of Rogan. In addition to his anxieties over the World Series and opening night, Rogan must deal with a detached daughter (Ari Graynor), a wife with a prominent divorce lawyer (Catherine O'Hara), an investor who is also his lover (Bebe Neuwirth) and a fellow playwright whose career was ruined by the aforementioned theatre critic (Griffin Dunne).
Into this menagerie of melancholy are weaved repeated scenes with a variety of taxicab drivers, an actor (Harris Yulin) who can't remember his lines due to a brain parasite, and scene after scene of an advertisement featuring, again, the aforementioned theatre critic.
The concept of "Game 6" is an interesting one, yet DeLillo is only mildly successful in translating his usual stage writing to a big screen. The imagery often feels forced, long pauses are awkward, and the excessive use of a radio DJ as narrator feels like a worn out stage device. Add into this mix the overwrought stylings of director Michael Hoffman ("Emperor's Club" and "Restoration"), and even this strong cast can't overcome the many obstacles placed before them.
The end result is particularly sad in that this is a marvelous performance from Michael Keaton, and in supporting roles Downey, Jr., Neuwirth and Graynor are particularly noteworthy. Keaton has always been noteworthy as one of cinema's more intelligent actors, and as a playwright with a loser's mentality one gets the sense he's accessing both the intellectual and emotional remnants of a career that once appeared on the verge of explosion yet now rests comfortably on the indie side of cinema.
Keaton masters convincingly DeLillo's words, even when such words make little or no sense. One gets the feeling that Keaton can read between the lines of DeLillo's dialogue, and he finds a place inside Nicky Rogan that isn't readily accessible.
Downey, Jr., who also worked with Hoffman on the more successful "Restoration," is relaxed and poignant as a critic whose rich authenticity has nearly cost him his sanity. Griffin Dunne, in a relatively minor role, offers his best work in recent years in a performance worthy of his own film as a playwright literally destroyed from the inside out by one savage review.
Of course, Red Sox fans are quite aware of how Game 6 ended and, dare I say, the end of the movie "Game 6" is equally as predictable. It works, ever so slightly, because of the chemistry and conviction of Keaton, Graynor and Downey, Jr.
"Game 6" was shot on a production budget of well under $1 million and Keaton, Downey, Jr., and Neuwirth all reportedly worked for $100 a day on the film. Kudos must go to all three award-winning performers for not phoning in their performances in "Game 6," but instead offering strong, convincing performances.
DeLillo, despite the flaws in his first screenplay, shows remarkable promise in writing for the big screen. While "Game 6" is a tad disappointing, it is worth viewing for its lead performances and the thrill of seeing a low-budget independent film that is bold, if not always beautiful.