OPRAH WINFREY PRESENTS MITCH ALBOM’S FOR ONE MORE DAY (2007)
Starring Michael Imperioli, Ellen Burstyn, Samantha Mathis, Scott Cohen, Alice Drummond, Emily Wickersham, Cara Seymour, Lexie Drago, Joyce Hogi, Frank Pellegrino and Vadim Imperioli.
Screenplay by Mitch Albom.
Directed by Lloyd Kramer.
Distributed by Harpo Films and ABC Television Network. 91 minutes. Not Rated.
You can tell by the name-heavy title of this pleasant-but-manipulative little TV movie that Oprah Winfrey Presents Mitch Albom’s For One More Day is meant to be an important piece of television which will be good for you — so you better watch it.
Winfrey has parlayed a TV talk show into a position of huge power as an arbiter of tastes in the US, particularly for women. Though, in all fairness, Winfrey and her staff’s literary tastes are, in general, spot on. She has exposed many worthy authors and books to huge audiences via her Oprah’s book club and Winfrey has literally become a serious force in publishing. This is mostly a force for good, though she was never taken to task for her self-righteous pillorying of writer James Frey for enhancing some facts in his memoir A Million Little Pieces and essentially ruining his career and reputation — as if it was really all that unusual for a memoirist to embellish the facts a bit.
Albom, on the other hand, is a sportswriter-turned-inspirational novelist (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet In Heaven). His books are in general short, lightweight, well-written, well-intentioned, sentimental, feel-good stories about appreciating the little things in life and death. Some people call Albom’s books sappy — and they are certainly not wrong — but no one can deny that his homilies have hit a nerve in pop culture, making him a literary phenomenon.
This seems like a lot of baggage for a made-for-television movie.
Michael Imperioli of the Sopranos takes a pretty impossible role and does as well as he can with it. He plays Charles “Chick” Benetto, a middle-aged former baseball played who is now an alcoholic wreck.
Throughout his life, Chick was always trying to impress his tough, single-minded father (Scott Cohen) to the point that he nearly ignored his saintly mother (played by Samantha Mathis as a young woman and Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn as an older woman.) Chick threw himself obsessively into baseball because it was his father’s dream, but he never quite grabbed the brass ring.
His one shining moment was when he was briefly called up to the major leagues to play and even goes to the World Series. (According to Chick’s explanation he was brought up in September to replace an injured player, but unless the rules have changed, I don’t believe a player is allowed to go to the series unless he is brought up earlier in the season). But even that crowning glory ended in failure for Chick. Years later, he is still drunkenly reliving the moment when he was easily struck out by Gaylord Perry.
In the years that follow, he becomes an alcoholic, breaks up with his wife, is on the verge of losing his job, becomes estranged from his daughter and misses the opportunity to say goodbye to his mother before she dies.
Chick finally hits rock-bottom, barely surviving a drunk-driving wreck in which he is responsible for flipping a truck and himself landing in a ravine. He stumbles out with a can of beer and a gun and ends up in the dugout of the field where he played little league ball, determined to kill himself.
He only stops because as he is readying himself to pull the trigger, he sees his mother across the field. Yes, the same mother who had died nine years earlier. He is given the wonderful gift of being able to spend one more day with her as they take a tour through the important moments in their life.
This is a wonderful conceit, though it does not quite pay off. You look for some changes in Chick over the years, but they don’t really seem to be there. It seems Chick was a miserable kid, a miserable young adult and a miserable middle-aged man. In fact, being with Chick at ten would have been only marginally less insufferable than being with him in his 50s. (By the way, Imperioli looks way too young to be a man who played in the 1973 World Series — even with aging makeup.)
Ellyn Burstyn, on the other hand, is radiant as his mother. She is a jewel who should still be acting much more than she does. She nearly single-handedly rescues the plot from pathos and manipulation. We never quite understand why she loves Chick as much as she does — other than the obvious mother/child bond — but we never, ever question her intentions or her virtue. The mother is a much more interesting character than the son ever could be and really should be the focus of this film.
(Note: Despite the fact that this is listed in the “Available at Your Video Store” section, at the time of this posting the movie is only available as a television movie running on the ABC Television Network. It is almost inevitable that it will be released on DVD, but there is no official release date set.)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 8, 2007.