I am not a sports fan. I have never really enjoyed watching other people have more fun than I am having, and I have never felt camaraderie for sportsmen who neither know my name or my face.
But I enjoy some sports movies, and Kevin Costner’s in particular. Also, I am from Cleveland, so when I saw the previews for Draft Day I thought I would check it out.
I am glad that I did.
Draft Day is a well-paced drama that is about the general manager of the Cleveland Browns on draft day. At first it seems that his rivals have set him up to take a fall and lose his job on the very day that he finds out that he is going to be a father. Before the day is out Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) will have to make critical decisions and pull off an upset if he is going to save his career. He has to pick which young man he will choose with the number one draft choice for the year.
The acting is solid, frequently funny at just the right moments to undercut tension, or even highlight it. The touch of romance that shows up in most of Costner’s films is well-done and low key without being one bit less moving. Thank God (literally) that the director went for all of the impact of trying to tell about relationships without lots of sex, nudity, or swearing. This is a romantic question involving honest-to-goodness grown-ups instead of some adolescent imagination of what real relationships might look like.
I was really impressed with the split-screen animation in a film that centers on a series of cross-country phone calls. The standard half-and-half split appeared, and then evolved along with the plot itself, until characters are actually walking in front of or behind the other person in a touch that reminded me powerfully of live theater.
There is much, much more to this story than sports. It is part detective story, as Weaver must dig into the character and past of his draft picks and find the heart behind players regardless of their filmed games. It is part family drama. As almost always happens in sinful relationships, his office affair complicates his life, causes him stress, fools pretty much no one, damages his reputation in his work and among his peers, and is a tangle. Despite all that his girlfriend Ali (played delightfully by Jennifer Garner) does an excellent job of portraying true feminine strength. She nurtures, encourages, and brings out the best in Weaver, as the feminine is so dramatically endowed by our creator to do. The film has the drama of high-stakes negotiations since Weaver isn’t just fighting for a winning team, but his father’s legacy and his livelihood as well.
I know diddly about who appeared as themselves on the big screen, since I neither watch nor care about football, and it is harder for me as an outsider since the line between actors and ball players has blurred for as long as there have been television shows. (That’s right, old-timers, Chuck Connors, star of The Rifleman was a ball player before he landed his acting gig. Young pups, there’s something for you to Google.) So I had no clue who was an actor playing a player and a player portraying themselves or even acting. None of my enjoyment of this drama came from face or name recognition, but I enjoyed a film about a big bully setting a sucker up for a fall, only to have the sucker come from behind to win. This underdog drama is fun, with nice blerbs from supporting casts, and a good time for all.
I recommend it.