Eephus (2024)

Eephus Review

Eephus (2024)

A local baseball game goes on all night in Carson Lund’s adorably existential, off-kilter take on the sports movie.

Their future is our past, and it bears repeating: The film is set in a ’90s that’s a throwback even from there these are guys who drive pickups and station wagons; they live in houses with gables and hand-painted signs. One of them has a Plymouth with a push-button radio that plays hilarious spoofs of local ads commercials where the business owner himself does the hard sell with all the flat, strained enthusiasm of someone who’s never been trained to talk into a microphone. On the same station is an announcer voiced by documentary-maven Frederick Wiseman, who with Bill “Spaceman” Lee the ’70s Red Sox left-hander who shows up for one scene gives this thing what may be its two biggest cameos. It’s deep-bench indie character actors otherwise; some faces you might recognize just enough to know you don’t really know them at all, but not so much that it ever distracts from the choral chemistry within this ensemble.

Only one ancient fan Franny, a few family members, Cliff Blake’s later-life Jack Lemmon impression of an avid scorekeeper and some teenagers who are bored to tears by the league’s amateur status (“They’re just, like, plumbers and shit,”) watch as the men file up to bat. But we didn’t come to see the game anymore than they came to play it. The “Eephus”’ minimal action is in the dugout chatter, the outfield banter, the beer cans breeding in the grass, the brightening sky darkening gradually, tempers getting lost and found. Church bells ring and commuter trains rattle past; no narrative fireworks are let off here as night falls not even when there are literal fireworks Greg Tango’s camera lovingly perversely pointed away from them at the briefly illuminated empty dugout as off-screen sparklers fizz and rockets fly.

But loosely: ornery pitcher Ed (Keith William Richards), forced to step up when Adler’s Paint captain buggers off for a christening; his opposite number Graham (Stephen Radochia), Riverdogs coach whose endless prolonging of game seems particularly pointed given that he’s involved with Soldier’s Field demolition scheme. “Eephus” (term for an unexpectedly slow curveball with lots of deceptive topspin so that according to one benched baseball-philosopher it appears to hover in midair) isn’t about rivalry nearly as much as companionship. It’s about using the Great American Pastime as a way of putting off time passing; using together-shaving American masculinity but refusing otherwise articulate this desire which these men clearly have.

Lund DP’d on Directors’ Fortnight stablemate “Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point,” just as that film’s director Tyler Taormina appears here as producer; together they and their Omnes Films shingle are gently spearheading an unassuming new nostalgia movement in American indie cinema, which is sentimental without being soppy and deeply, almost surreally sincere about the arcane rituals that underlie so much of American social life. And here we have perhaps the purest distillation yet of this New Suburban Quiet even (especially?) for those of us with no particular prior investment in the sport; its pearls of practical wisdom and gems of melancholic wit make “Eephus” a diamond, fittingly enough for a film about a game played on one.

Watch Eephus For Free On Gomovies.

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