American Pastime (2007)

I’m always grateful of films that manage to use its cast of actors for their talents and not the pigeonholes they’ve had put upon them. “American Pastime” is one of the few movies I’ve seen in years that uses its Asian American cast to provide some strong performances, and not fight mystic martial arts of some kind. There’s always talk of African Americans being used poorly in America, but the most suppressed race in the film medium are the Asian Americans. “American Pastime” brings out a strong turn out from its cast of seasoned veterans exploring the plight of the Asian Americans during Pearl Harbor, and many established families being forced to live in Internment camps.

“I Am American” reads one sign in particular during a montage of Asian owned businesses being forced to shut down. “American Pastime” is an Americana message film, but a much more tolerable kind that explores the other side of the fence. One of the advantages to the period drama is the presence of Gary Cole who manages to play an antagonist who is utterly obvious, yet is also rather interesting. None of the themes present here are all too subtle or hidden; it’s pretty obvious the writers will expect audiences to realize Cole’s character Billy and the main character Lyle both adore baseball, yet just can’t quite find common ground in that respect. They’re so much alike, yet their racial differences keep them separate. It’s a crude, but altogether very interesting experience to watch.

With “American Pastime” I was very interested to see what would develop. I cared about these characters, and I wanted to see how they’d end up in this war. Sarah Drew, one of my favorites from “Everwood,” is very good here as the daughter of Cole who signs on to the camp to teach music and has an affair with prisoner Lyle. Aaron Yoo is the stand out with his performance as Lyle, the prisoner and baseball enthusiast who challenges authority often, which ends up getting him into hot water. “American Pastime” is a commentary on the Iraq war, and one that sometimes doesn’t come off loudly at times, and other times hits us over the head. And yet, I was fond of it from the get go. It’s not an all too poetic or subtle piece of war time drama and social commentary, that’s pretty much a given with its sap and obvious plot devices, but “American Pastime” has its appeal. With strong performances, and an utterly entertaining story, it works, and I enjoyed it.