For Love Of The Game


Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by:Dana Stevens
Starring: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, Brian Cox
Released: April 27, 2000
Grade: B+

Billy Chapel (Costner) has enjoyed the ups and downs of a 19-year baseball career.  He never had the joy of winning a World Series but is the heart and soul of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff.  At the age of 40, he has reached the crossroad of his life.  The team is to be sold and if he chooses to continue his career he will give up his beloved Tigers and be traded to a new team.

Undecided where is future lies, Billy takes the mound for what could be the final time.  It’s a nothing game for Detroit but victory will keep the New York Yankees out of the play-offs.  Yankee Stadium is packed and the stage is set.

As the game progresses, Chapel has flashbacks over his distinguished career.  He’s guaranteed to make the Hall of Fame, has made millions in endorsements but has a soft spot for one lady.  He met Jane Aubrey (Preston) whilst in New York and a relationship slowly developed.  It was great at first but then things changed.  As she tells Billy, you and ball are perfect for each other and you don’t need anybody else.

For Love Of The Game has a lot going for it.  I’m surprised that more sporting movies aren’t coming out of American given their recent popularity and success.  Kevin Costner knows when he’s on a winner and illustrates his baseball prowess having recently mastered the art of golf for Tin Cup.

Sam Raimi is behind the camera as the film’s director and does a wonderful job building the excitement and tension of the baseball game.  His use of blurred TV-like images, commentary and even the FOX logo and score in the top left corner give the movie some neat touches.  Sure the ending is formulaic but it’ll put feeling back into the heart of any sportsman who’s faced disappointment.  It’s got all the tension of a real baseball game.

On the downward flipside is the romance between Costner and Preston.  It works to an extent but as film flashes back and forward, you become annoyed at the frivolous stories and romantic moments he reflects back upon.  It overshadows the game, but then again there are some who will prefer the romance to the sporting action.

Baseball is not a well-known sport in Australia and you will need to understand a little about the game to appreciate just what is going on.  I wonder if Australian filmmakers will catch onto the bug and if soon we’ll see an AFL or rugby league movie.  Many of us play sport but what is it that draws us back week after week despite disappointment after disappointment.  For love of the game.