- Movie Rating -

The Slugger’s Wife (1985)

| March 29, 1985

Neil Simon’s The Slugger’s Wife is a real study.  It’s a lighthearted little biscuit of a film that includes baseball and romance; then it throws in a sort of magical realism and then treads into plot elements that seems to come from transcripts of Simon’s therapy sessions.  It’s a weird cracker box of a movie, like getting M&Ms in a bag a broccoli.

The movie stars Michael O’Keefe as Darryl Palmer, an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves who is in the middle of a slump when he meets a pretty girl named Debby at a nightclub and publicly announced to all in attendant that he will hit two homeruns at tomorrow night’s game if she will have dinner with him afterwards.  Well, he does, and they fall in love and quickly become Mr. and Mrs. Palmer.

Then the magical realism kicks in.  At the plate, he gets out of his slump because apparently Darryl’s love for Debby is tied to his skills at the plate.  The way he knows that she feels about him is directly related to his performance.  When he knows she love him, he does well.  When he has doubts, he doesn’t.

Okay, fine.  I’ve seen worse and less believable plots.  Actually, up to this point, the idea seems fairly functional and kind of charming.  I like the idea that a guy’s professional prowess is tied to the woman that he loves.  That’s kind of romantic.

But then . . . .

But then.  Neil Simon, for some reason throws their relationship into a dark, weird broody series of personal issues that would confuse Ingmar Bergman.  Darryl is reveled to be pathologically jealous and possessive.  She is independent and intelligent, and that somehow becomes a problem for him.  Their relationship is strained.  He can’t leave well-enough alone, and she can’t be with a man who treats her this way.

What?  Where did this screenplay take such a left turn?  How did such a light-hearted fantasy suddenly become a case of a couple in crisis?  What’s worse, the movie doesn’t even resolve the relationship back to the light-hearted scenes that we started with.  The ending is completely unsatisfying because we’re not sure what went wrong.  The attempts by Darryl’s friends to patch things up seem to come put of a television sitcom.  They’re not only unfunny, they’re painful given the realism that we’ve been through with this couple.  This is the most frustrating movie that Simon has ever written.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama