A small-town baseball groupie who takes a different ball-player from the local team under her wing and into her bed each season, chooses the super-talented youngster one year only to find herself drawn to the veteran nearing the end of his career.
Contradicting the accepted wisdom that sports movies are box office poison, Bull Durham was a winner with both critics and audiences in the USA, incidentally giving the garter trade a quite unexpected fillip.
Writer Ron Shelton, who previously scripted the war correspondent movie Under Fire, brought his own experience as a minor league ballplayer to this witty comedy and uses his directorial debut to share his passion for baseball, lusty women and small-timers with big hearts. The central character isn't a baseball player, but a baseball groupie, Annie (Sarandon), the unlikeliest women you could hope to find in a spot like Durham, North Carolina. Annie's kind of a happy Blanche Dubois, devoted to screwing, baseball and amateur philosophy, imparting wisdom via one-liners like "the world is made for people who are not cursed with self-awareness".
Each season Annie zeroes in on one player from the Durham Bulls to share her bed and benefit from her knowledge of baseball and life. This year she selects dim-witted young Ebby "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a pitcher with a "million dollar arm and a five cent brain", not to mention a horrible hair style and a Motley Crue T-shirt, as her protégé. But she really fancies the veteran at the end of his career, Crash Davis (Kevin Costner).
Crash is also occupied with teaching Nuke what's what and his cynical efforts provide several of the film's best laughs as he wearily instructs the twit in How To Talk To The Press and not to let fungus grow in his shower shoes, and holds curt seminars mid-game on the pitcher's mound. Naturally, by the end of the season everyone has learned a little something about the Big Game Of Life and Nuke even gets a good haircut.
Kevin Costner gets to deliver a great future Classic Speech about what he believes in - the small of a woman's back, good scotch , high fibre, prolonged foreplay and chocolate cookies, among other things - and the soundtrack veers engagingly from Edith Piaf to Sixty Minute Man. Ultimately what will determine how this fares with foreigners is not so much how you feel about baseball as whether you could like a woman who ties men to the bed while reading them the poems of Walt Whitman.
Classic performances, witty and insightful script, this is about so much more than baseball and will no doubt prove to be a quiet classic.