Closing Night

by Jake Meaney

31 May 2007

An audience decked out in full Boston Red Sox gear waits, in vain, for the appearance of star slugger, David Ortiz -- the film, it seems, was incidental. Meanwhile, Scott Caan, son of the enigmatic James Caan, gives a possible starmaking performance as a wiseguy wannabe.
David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox - not from Rumbo a las Grande Ligas 

Rumbo a las Grande Ligas (dir. Jared Goodman)
The anticipatory thrum of the packed house for the modest documentary, Rumbo a las Grande Ligas, was all out of proportion for the film that was set to screen. The crowd swelled as we ticked down to the start time, and people jockeyed for the best seats.  As whoops went up and cameras were dragged out, you felt something big, really big, was about to go down.

There were chants from the balcony, the rise and fall of hurrying clapping—I think I even saw a group attempt to start the wave. Most people were decked out in red and blue jerseys with the number “3"4 on the back.  Most people were wearing matching baseball hats. As the lights dimmed, the women in front of me started singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. As the grainy, low budget film started to role, there was a hush, then more clapping, more boisterousness, a round of booing that greeted a person on the screen wearing a blue cap with a letter “Y” superimposed over the letter “N”.

Rumbo a las Grande Ligas

Rumbo a las Grande Ligas

And then… Well, a huge roar as the hulking jovial star slugger for the Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, a living legend in Boston, unloaded one of his trademark game-ending clutch homeruns over the Green Monster at Fenway. People settled back, grudgingly waiting out the rest of the 54-minute run time of this small film about the big dreams of baseball and success among the impoverished youths of the Dominican Republic.

Which is a shame, this resignation by the audience, because the film was actually quite charming, if too slight to be really accorded any real significance. Lean and unambitious, it tracks the fortunes and failures of a few kids in the Dominican baseball leagues, contrasting them with the huge successes of their heroes, Ortiz, Vlad Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. But like the kids in the film, everyone in the theatre crowd only had eyes for Ortiz, who, it was rumored and whispered for days around the fest, might—just might—make an appearance during the Q&A session.

Alas… The collective exhaling groan that went through the crowd after the lights went up and no Big Papi appeared was like the very Platonic Idea of disappointment. Crestfallen, many people slunk out even before the filmmakers got a chance to field questions. And yes, count me among the disappointed, though I would’ve seen the film anyway, Ortiz or no. Too bad, though.  The IFF could’ve gone ended with a bang, as so many Red Sox games have over the past few years, if only Ortiz were there.

Brooklyn Rules

Brooklyn Rules

Brooklyn Rules (dir. Michael Corrente)
And further alas, though fortuitously, I guess, that wasn’t the actual closing night (though it felt like it). Chosen to close the festival was Michael Corrente’s Brooklyn Rules, an agreeable, if mostly forgettable, coming of age tale set on the (ahem) mean streets of Brooklyn.
Following the fortunes of three childhood friends as they try to navigate young adulthood surrounded by the Mafia, Terrence Winter’s (of Sopranos fame) script gives its hand away early and often. Freddie Prinze Jr., while not a disastrous choice as the narrator and pivot point of the film, does not have the soulful depth the role requires in order to really peer deep into the darkness around him. Jerry Ferrara (Turtle of Entourage fame) is affecting as the young innocent, the hapless buddy who has a heart of gold but is an utter failure in every other aspect of life.

Brooklyn Rules

Brooklyn Rules

But the real, and probably only, reason to see Brooklyn Rules is the swaggering, bruising turn by Scott Caan as the wiseguy wannabe, whose fatal choice to find a life for himself as a low level hood endangers them all. If this weren’t his own son, I’d say James Caan would have a good case for copyright infringement here. Scott’s performance channels the same hotheaded bravado and roiling primal rage that his father did as Sonny Corleone. It’s both eerie and fascinating to watch, and not a small bit distracting, which might have taken away from any chance I had from enjoying Brooklyn Rules on its own merits. He’s that good, and given the right roles, he may be the same primal force to reckon with in a few films. Here he is still growing into his potential, filling out into his own promise, much like the festival itself.

Rumbo de las Grandes Ligas - Trailer Brooklyn Rules - Trailer

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