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Off the Black

On the ball
By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  December 20, 2006
3.5 3.5 Stars

The first 30 minutes of James Ponsoldt’s understated feature debut feel scripted; you can see the typed-up lines of dialogue in the exchanges between aging umpire Ray Cook (Nick Nolte) and floppy-haired high-school pitcher Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan). But perhaps that’s the nature of awkward interactions — we fall back on formula. And what’s awkward at first (Ray catches Dave vandalizing his house after his call — ball instead of strike — cost Dave a game) evolves into something natural and the script disappears. Nolte nails the particular tragedy of the past-his-prime ex-high-school athlete, and Morgan, as semi-sensitive teenager, angry-sad about his mom’s abandoning him, serves as both foil and former self to Nolte’s Dave the way sons are wont to. Ponsoldt finds beauty and sadness in the details: one of Dave’s notes-to-self reads, “Reunion! Kick Ass!”, and there’s the perfect suburban melancholy of a toilet-papered tree.

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  Topics: Reviews , Nick Nolte, James Ponsoldt
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 See all articles by: NINA MACLAUGHLIN