Spaceman is loosely based on the story of Major League Baseball pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman” Lee. If you love baseball, and are a fan of Bill, then this is the film for you. The first half of the film shows Bill’s quick spiral down and falling out of the league. Surrounded by a green fog Bill allows his emotions to get the best of him and talks himself out of a career. However, the last half of the film focuses on his love for the game, and his search to find any league door cracked open just enough that he can squeeze back in. Bill’s tenacity and refusal to accept defeat lead him to once again find his purpose.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this film having only watched the trailer, but it definitely wasn’t anything close to what I had imagined. I can’t speak of the man himself since I didn’t follow baseball back in Bill’s golden days. My only introduction to Bill is this film, and in the end it left me wanting to know more. However, it took me half of the film to really get into the story. I’m not a fan of the Fear and Loathing style of the first half. I get why it is part of the story, but it seemed too forced. I lost interest many times and almost quit watching. However, it was Josh Duhamel’s performance that kept me glued to the screen. Josh portrays Bill with such honestly and heart that you can’t stop watching even if you really want to. Once the film crossed over the half way mark (and dropped the drug induced story-telling) I was hooked.
I absolutely love the last half of the film. That is more what I was expecting. Watching the desperation turn Bill’s cockiness into humbleness is worth the price of admission. He has such a profound character arc that is rarely seen in the sports genre. Most typical sports films have a protagonist that fights an uphill battle to victory. But Spaceman flips the script. Instead of watching someone climb up the ranks to get a spot on the field we instead are witness to a man at the top of his game falling to rock bottom. Bill is both the protagonist and his own antagonist.
If you are a fan of Josh Duhamel, and I’m assuming most everyone is since Josh’s career has spanned from soaps (All My Children) to comedy (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), action (Transformers) to drama (Lost in the Sun) and of course romance (Safe Haven), you will absolutely fall in love with his portrayal of Bill “Spaceman” Lee. I can’t think of another character Josh has played that shows such vulnerability and subtle emotion lying underneath the rocky surface. Josh is able to bounce back and forth from Bill’s crazy antics and insane outbursts to the love he has for his children and his passion for baseball. It’s like watching a powder keg that has been lit but has a very long fuse. You know it is going to explode, but the tension leading up to the moment is what really gets you. Josh perfectly balances on the line between Bill’s reality and strung out expectations. I can easily say that this is Josh’s best performance to date. We are so used to seeing him play the typical leading man that it was nice to finally see him really get to stretch his acting chops in more of a cracked wide open character role. There aren’t many leading men who can play unusual characters so I think Josh will be enjoying this game well past retirement just like the “Spaceman”.
All in all, Spaceman is a great story with a unique spin. Bill “Spaceman” Lee proves that anyone can defy the odds, the rules and the game.
*Spaceman is currently playing in theaters and is also available on VOD. Check your local listings.