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Film Review of the Week: Draft Day

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Draft Day, which opens at theaters areawide on Thursday night, begins bright and early the morning of the NFL draft in Seattle, Washington. The GM of the Seahawks speculates with the team owner on the likelihood of trading away the top pick with 12 hours on the clock. Chances aren't great, they conclude, unless they can find someone really really desperate.

"Who's the most desperate team you can think of?" the owner asks his GM.

Cut to Cleveland. A dramatic approach shot of the city skyline and FirstEnergy Stadium from Lake Erie. (If you see the film at a local theater, expect to hear the audience hoot and howl).

Bursting at the pigskin's seams with Cleveland references, Cleveland backdrops, Cleveland inside jokes, and, above all, a hallowed reverence for the history and particular misery of the Cleveland Browns, Draft Day will be a rare treat for moviegoers in Northeast Ohio. It's honestly hard to anticipate what the rest of the country will think about it.   

Kevin Costner is Sonny Weaver, Jr, the General Manager for our beloved Brownies. Once you overlook the ridiculous notion that the grizzled and world-weary Costner, who is 59 years old, learns within the film's opening ten minutes that he's going to be a father i.e. is going to have a child, with Jennifer Garner, no less — the film's much more enjoyable.

It's probably only in retrospect that you'll be able to acknowledge just how broad and stupid the layers of personal drama are. It turns out Jennifer Garner, who plays a salary-cap accountant and Weaver's secret intra-office flame, still isn't very good at acting. That was made painfully obvious last year when she was outperformed by Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer's Club by a degree of maybe nine; her line delivery is equally wooden here. Plus, an unlikely gay-ish intern installed in the script for comic relief (I suspect) gives many of the scenes a weird screwball vibe, which director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, My Super Ex-Girlfriend) may or may not have been going for.  

But it's easy to ignore the dAumb personal stuff because the football stuff is super compelling and fun. It's like a more playful, more contrived (obviously fictional) Moneyball, with the added suspense of the entirety of the film transpiring in 12 hours. From the opening scene, we're counting down.

By breakfast time, Weaver gets that trade offer from Seattle and pressure from team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) to take it, to make a splash. Weaver makes the trade, then spends the rest of the day atoning for his decision and trying to reconcile draft consensus with his own trusty gut, all the while trying to determine his status with Garner's character and deflecting the emotional blindsiding from his mom (Ellen Burstyn) in the wake of his father's death. 

The outrageous turn of events during the draft itself are almost farcical, but stranger things have happened in the world of sports, and it's a blast to watch unfold.

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