Game 6

by |
03/01/2006 12:00 AM |

In End Zone, Don DeLillo’s absurdist portent of a sophomore novel, his narrator is told: “The way you say some things. I actually believe you. I think you’re serious. Then it hits me that something’s not right.” Which, actually, pretty accurately foreshadowed DeLillo’s as-yet-unarticulated body of work. His dialogue, incomplete thoughts coagulating in unattributed back-and-forth, accumulates essential, but faintly ludicrous shards. It clearly never occurred to Michael Hoffman that a Major American Writer’s screenplay should be played for comedy, but it’s the only way Game 6 would have worked.

DeLillo’s script (structural elements of which appear in his recent, epigrammatic novel Cosmopolis) finds signifiers of impending crises in the professional, personal, and interior lives of playwright Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton) converging on the night of October 25, 1986. Respectively: his new play is opening, his wife is contemplating divorce, and his Boston Red Sox are playing at Shea, about to blow the sixth game of the World Series in legendary fashion. (Associating the Sox with the romance of outsized failure is an appealing, if trod-over notion.)

It’s a deliberately formal symbolic construction, enlivened to death: the deadpan artifice that DeLillo’s dialogue affects on the page yields distinctly unnatural results when approached with the cast’s tritely earnest naturalism. At least the lived-in Koch-era Manhattan look is unforced, but long before Rogan, a wise black cabbie, and her saucer-eyed grandson watch the game, slinging redemptive platitudes in an accelerating circle of ideological Dada sloganeering, three dimensions has ceased to be an improvement.

Opens March 10