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Rated R · 90 minutes · 2006

If Rocky Balboa is an absurdist fantasy of senior-age machismo, this disarmingly droll and insightful indie -- named for a baseball pitch that narrowly misses the mark -- comes infinitely closer to the reality of exhausted masculinity. Featuring Nick Nolte as a high school umpire and failed dad, it's a ninth-inning movie wherein the ump's only triumph is another brutally honest call. The film's conceit is that the old lion bonds with a young buck -- crestfallen pitcher Dave (Trevor Morgan), a sad-eyed, shaggy-haired 17-year-old in a small industrial town who comes to the crotchety ump's house at night with two friends, some toilet paper, and a brick, but becomes his friend. Off the Black belongs on the shelf beside male portraits Spring Forward and Old Joy; it's not as deep or resonant as those two, but, despite extraneous supporting characters (i.e., women), it's likewise concerned with lamenting and, dare we say, expanding the limitations of men's communication skills.
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writer: James Ponsoldt
Producer: Robin O'Hara and Scott Macaulay
Cast: Nick Nolte, Trevor Morgan, Timothy Hutton, Sally Kirkland, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sonia Feigelson and Michael Higgins


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