Bang the Drum Slowly
Here’s an unusual thing: A baseball movie with very little baseball in it. And something else: A movie about a dying athlete that doesn’t try to wring tears from you in any way it can. What a relief after the bathetic The Pride of the Yankees, which we saw just before. We see action on the field, but it’s single plays, mostly just to establish that these are ballplayers. What we never get is the Big Game, or the Big Win, and what a relief. I mean, I don’t object to sports movies where it all comes down to the last out in the bottom of the ninth in the last game of the World Series, and the last five minutes of the movie. But, lord, haven’t we seen that a few times? This movie is about the men who play the game, how they interact, what it’s like to be on the road. One of these men, played by Robert de Niro before anyone knew who he was, is dying, and his best friend, Michael Moriarty, is determined to conceal that from the team’s manager, Vincent Gardenia (who gives a wonderfully hilarious performance). Some of it is quite funny and some is quite moving. It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever seen in a sports movie, and I’m grateful for that.