Screwball (2019; Dir.: Billy Corben)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, March 29, at the 4 Star Theater in San Francisco.
Less a documentary than a feature-length piece of clickbait, the true-crime sports movie Screwball offers the most superficial look imaginable at the steroids scandal surrounding Alex Rodriguez and Biogenesis. An “anti-aging” drug dealership founded by prototypical Florida sleazebag Tony Bosch, Biogenesis lurched into the public eye in 2013 when Bosch’s feud with a “professional tanner” spiraled out of control.
In a one-joke gambit that does not pay off, director Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys) stages perfunctory re-enactments starring children as the adult protagonists, with all of the young actors lip-synching their dialogue Drunk History-style. Corben previously directed three episodes of the ESPN documentary series 30 for 30, which at least explains the simultaneously glossy and hoary mix of snarky sitcom clips, staged interviews, overabundant infographics and strange hero worship of ESPN anchors repeating news stories broken by print journalists.
An irresistible, darkly comic, true-crime story of greed, narcissism and body worship (shades of Foxcatcher) stocked with enough Florida oddballs to embarrass Elmore Leonard (shades of Pain & Gain) occasionally peaks through the smug haze surrounding Screwball, just enough to make you wonder if David Fincher or at least one of the Coen brothers give a shit about baseball (the role of A-Rod has Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination written all over it).
Mostly, Corben seems distracted by his own cutesy contributions, including a pint-sized Manny Ramirez, endless and pointless SNL clips and a painfully bad Goodfellas homage.