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Reverse the curse2023.

Written and directed by David Duchovny.
With David Duchovny, Logan Marshall-Green, Stephanie Beatriz, Ralph Rodriguez, Jason Beghe, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Liam Garten, Santo Fazio and Kathiamarice Lopez.

SUMMARY:

Ted moves in with his father Marty when he develops a fatal illness. To keep him happy and alive, Ted enlists Marty’s grief counselor Mariana and friends to fake a Red Sox winning streak.

In David Duchovny’s heart project Reverse the curse (translation of the screen adaptation of his novel) there is a section where baseball is declared to be the greatest sport because it is never over and you never really “die” until you reach the third out at the end of the ninth inning. There is still plenty of time until then to correct mistakes and errors made anywhere on the field and emerge victorious. This is a story that understands the appeal of baseball, even if the adaptation is not necessarily about the sport.

It’s also obvious that the so-called “curse” isn’t just the Boston Red Sox’s infamous World Series drought after they got rid of future Hall of Famer Babe Ruth for short-sighted reasons (that one lasted 86 years), but also something to do with family and regret. More specifically, Boston Red Sox-obsessed, unsuccessful writer and equally failed ex-husband and father Marty (David Duchovny) is cursed with lung cancer (not to diminish the consequences of his habitual smoking, but every terminal stage almost feels like it), which eventually reunites him with his estranged son Teddy (Logan Marshall-Green), who is a stoner and aspiring writer currently selling peanuts at Yankee Stadium, and decides to move back to New Jersey and care for his father alongside end-of-life counselor Mariana (Stephanie Beatriz).

There is also an understanding that our energy, even in illness, is directly tied to the performance of our fan base. So when the Boston Red Sox’s fairly dominant 1978 season begins to falter and the New York Yankees are fast catching up, Teddy devises a rather implausible ruse to keep his father off the TV and radio. He replaces newspaper clippings with headlines announcing victory (why Marty doesn’t read any of the full articles is one of many required suspensions of disbelief). He also teams up with some locals (including a vulgar young New York Yankees fan) to aid the dying man’s happiness. By faking rainfall using homemade weather machines, Teddy also has time to venture out and pursue his romantic interest in the emotionally withdrawn Mariana.

The premise here has all the makings of an entertaining farce, but David Duchovny is more interested in the tense dynamics of the father-son relationship than in baseball or humor (except for bizarre scenes expressing that it’s sometimes OK for white people to call their friends racist epithets, which are awkwardly cued for laughs by Teddy’s discomfort).

The whole thing starts to feel like a clumsy metaphor, especially since the narrative can’t help but go down every melodramatic path possible. There are revelations about Marty’s past life and his first romantic spark, which delve into how and why he eventually stopped giving his wife and son the love they deserved. More reunions come into play in contrived ways that accomplish nothing. Plus, almost every character here has a traumatic backstory they’ve bottled up inside.

This is frustrating, of course, as sincere gestures and dialogue between father and son carry some emotional weight (David Duchovny and Logan Marshall-Green have the kind of authentic, tense chemistry that almost saves the story like a helpless team rising from the ashes), even if they’re occasionally overused and surrounded by superfluous characters and plot points.

Of course, the budget for this production is small, which limits the historical recreation, but one wishes that the focus was on the baggage between father and son, and that more emphasis was placed on the active engagement with baseball. Aside from a few crowd shots of Teddy handing out peanuts at Yankee Stadium and clips of an important Boston Red Sox game the two plan to attend but get lost on the drive, suggesting that the filmmakers didn’t even bother to bring it to life, the baseball is an afterthought. That would be fine if the rest of the story wasn’t so ponderous.

The big narrative climaxes are still worthwhile, as it becomes clear that Marty is trying to reverse more than just a curse as he and his son finally open up to each other and heal lingering emotional wounds. One of these revelations, however, feels over the top and is forced upon the viewer without much foreshadowing. When watching Reverse the curseit’s also undeniably obvious what a wonderfully relatable ending this should be, and thankfully David Duchovny recognizes that too. If a co-writer or more experienced director were helming these proceedings, perhaps this film’s numerous flaws could be transformed into something tighter, more believable, more tonally consistent, and more powerful. A poignant story is marred here by too many mistakes along the way.

Assessment of the flickering myth – Film: ★ ★ / Cinema: ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor at Flickering Myth. Find new reviews here, follow me Þjórsárden or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]

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