Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Best Of Times (1986)

Robin Williams and Kurt Russell star in this sports comedy drama from the pen of Ron Shelton (who, with Tin Cup, Bull Durham and White Men Can't Jump to his credit, will always be a gold-medal winner in this particular sub-genre). Williams plays Jack Dundee, a man played by that one mistake he made as a young man during the BIG football game. Kurt Russell was Reno Hightower, the star player, and he made a beautiful pass in the last moments of the game. A pass that Jack fumbled. His whole life, from that moment on, has consisted of him berating himself as "the guy who dropped the ball and lost the game". In a desperate move, Jack stumbles upon what he thinks is a great idea - replay the game. If he changes his perceived history, then maybe he can be content in the present and make headway towards a positive future. He just needs to convince the rest of the town, the guys who made up the opposing team and, of course, Reno.

If you hate American Football, then don't worry, this does feature the sport, but it's not really ABOUT that. Like every other sports movie by Shelton, this looks at a beloved sport and uses it to look at other aspects of human nature and life. The Best Of Times is actually about a big moment in a life that someone would want to change. Can it be done? Is it worth trying? How does it affect other people when someone allows themselves to be eaten away and defined by one mistake, one youthful "transgression".

Shelton has written a number of better scripts, but this works well because of the unlikely relationship between the characters played by Williams and Russell. There's also a good little turn from Donald Moffat, who agrees with Williams' low self-opinion. Holly Palance and Pamela Reed are very good as the other halves of, respectively, Williams and Russell and it's clear that they've been neglected at times. The nice thing, however, is that when things start coming together and everyone sees the effect of re-staging the big game, the ladies don't stay stubbornly rooted against the men. They're supportive, they just don't want such an event overshadowing every moment of their lives. There's also a small role for the great M. Emmet Walsh. He's great, as usual.

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, this is a good film and has some very funny moments. It even has a typically rousing finale that you can't help getting caught up in (well, I couldn't). Yet, it's never quite as good as it could be. An enjoyable watch, but not one I'd end up revisiting that often, if at all.



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