For Love of the Game (1999)

Kevin Costner and John C. Reilly in For Love of the Game

Costner’s Perfect Game

Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner - Silverado) is a baseball legend who having played for the same team all his life is forced to choose between retiring or transferring to another lesser club. With this in mind he starts to reminisce over all the ups and downs of his during his baseball career, including the woman he loves, Jane (Kelly Preston - Jack Frost), who is leaving for London. As he goes out to pitch in what could possibly be his last game, he carries on evaluating and reminiscing. But as the game goes on, it becomes apparent that he may be about to pitch a perfect game.

Movies based around sports always seem to be very popular but not always worth watching. "For Love of the Game" starring Kevin Costner falls into the not so popular but worth watching category, as there are several stories within this one movie. The predominant story is whether Billy Chapel should retire from the game he loves and which has provided him the luxuries he loves. I presume this is a question that all sports men and women must face at some point and is not an easy one for them to answer. It's beautifully worked with the aid of the reminiscing over past glories and the fear of what he could be away from the only thing he has known how to do.

Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston in For Love of the Game

The second story is the romance between Billy and Jane as he learns that he loves the game more than anything else, but knows that he will need to change this if he is going to keep hold of Jane. Jane also has to understand how much Baseball means to Billy and has to decide whether she can play second best to it. Another interesting story, which is important, is when Billy suffers a career threatening injury. The way he deals with it, threatens his relationship with Jane. All the stories in "For Love of the Game" work brilliantly together as they support each other in creating this compelling sports drama.

What is it with Kevin Costner and sports dramas (Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Bull Durham and American Flyers)? He has always done an excellent job in these movies, but I am starting to think that if he plans to do any more, he will seriously need to get himself into the gym. He gets away with it in "For Love of the Game", as the character is an older player, and he does do a very good job of expressing the emotions and reactions of a man who knows that his career is coming to an end. As he reminisces, you really feel for him as he remembers being taught by his dad, and the friendships he made during his career. It is one of Costner's more sensitive portrayals which delivers both the obvious machismo but also the emotion.

Although I am not a huge fan of Kelly Preston, she does an above adequate Job of playing Jane. You feel for her as the excitement of dating a sports star wears off and the realization that she will probably always be second best to the game. There are some other excellent performances from other supporting cast members, such as Brian Cox.

I believe a big part of why "For Love of the Game" works, is the excellent direction of Sam Raimi. He has captured the mood in every scene, such as the realization in the crowd that Chapel maybe out to pitch a perfect game, or the first meeting between Billy and Jane. His use of lighting and camera angle in each scene helps to convey the emotion of every scene, soft hues delivering warmth counter balanced by shadows to deliver moods. A good example of this is the way he focuses in on Billy when he is pitching; the sense of loneliness in the middle of the ground is achieved by the blurring of everything behind. It would have been very easy for him to fall into a trap of focusing too much on the game rather than the story, but has done a great job of using the game in just the right quantity.

What this all boils down to is that "For Love of the Game" is a well thought out movie and the story is very well told through the eyes of this Baseball legend. I cannot put my finger on a single bad performance in the movie or a scene where I wish the director had done something different. But what really sells me is that the movie is as much about baseball as it is the realization that something you have loved maybe coming to an end.

Tags: Baseball Movies