Reverse the Curse (Vertical, NR)

Although baseball is not one of the sports I follow religiously, I can totally understand why a film like Reverse the Curse might be a tough sell to a St. Louis audience. Nevertheless, I will try my best. Though it isn’t anything like as challenging or groundbreaking as Tuesday, this week’s other new release dealing with prolonged and expected grief (check out my review), Reverse the Curse is emotionally resounding in its own alternately acerbic and insightful way. Die-hard Cardinals fans might have to swallow their pride, however, as the curse its title refers to is that of the Boston Red Sox over most of the twentieth century.

Like any good St. Louisan (or any right-minded sports fan outside of the New England area), I will never feel sorry for any Boston team that loses (though kudos are in order for St. Louis’ own Jayson Tatum of the Celtics regardless of the outcome of the ongoing NBA Finals series). However, Marty (David Duchovny), a middle-aged man with a fatal case of lung cancer deserves a win. The film is set in 1978, as the Red Sox challenge the Yankees in the pennant race throughout the season. When Marty’s thirty-something son Ted (Logan Marshall-Green) learns of his father’s illness, he temporarily abandons his dead-end job as a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium to care for him.

Ted is an aspiring author, and he’s told early on that he writes like he hasn’t lived yet. This is true to some extent, but it’s one of the more obvious emotional setups in the film. Regardless, when Ted arrives at his childhood home, his and Marty’s banter is pretty well-written by Duchovny, who also directed the film and wrote the book it originated from. When Ted decides to create a baseball bubble around his father to keep him happy and healthy — crafting the illusion that the Red Sox are doing better than they actually are — it leads to the reveal of a few weighty family secrets, and even affects Mariana (Stephanie Beatriz), a local nurse and Marty’s “death specialist” counselor.

As the film continues, its jokes tend to have a 50/50 hit rate. However, Reverse the Curse only gets better and better as a period piece and as a drama. Though there are a few more obvious emotional setups and payoffs, many of them work quite well, especially when married to some of the aforementioned reveals. There’s a side story about an affair Marty had which informed his love of the Red Sox, a brewing chemistry between Ted and Mariana, and a humorous commitment to the bit of the Red Sox lie by Marty’s friends, even after the bubble has been burst. The story has a tendency to congeal substantively rather than thin out, and it culminates in some real career-highlight acting from Duchovny.

To its major credit, this film does quite a bit more than just follow the games. I was impressed that it didn’t waste time waxing poetically about its clear love for baseball. So many sports movies do that and thereby don’t live up to the promise of their own emotional cores. That’s not at all the case here, as even through the jokes that don’t land, Duchovny and company tell a lovely story about a father and son reconnecting right to the final inning. | George Napper

Reverse the Curse is now available on many video-on-demand platforms

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