Those who liked the other two television films based on Mitch Albom’s books—” Tuesdays With Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” —probably will enjoy this tale of a despairing man facing a moral and spiritual crisis on the rainy night when he intends to commit suicide. The full title of this ABC movie, is “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Time.”
Directed by Lloyd Kramer, the film demands the full attention of viewers in that it so frequently switches time and places as the alcoholic Chick Benetto (played by Emmy Award-winning actor Michael Imperoli), a former professional baseball player, tells his amazing story of meeting and spending a day with his dead mother Posey Benetto, played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn. He does not expect the young female reporter to believe his “ghost story,” but he tells it anyway.
The flashbacks range from his recent past when he was a professional baseball player to his childhood when his father Len Benetto (Scott Cohen) still lived with the family and sought to dominate his life. Len has been coaching the boy in baseball, relentlessly telling him that he must practice and never strike out if he wants to be a winner. Only losers strike out, he constantly tells his son. Once while enjoying watching his mother put on makeup, Chick’s disapproving father enters the room, ordering Chick to come with him. He tells him that he must decide whether he wants to be a “Momma’s boy” or his father’s son. Wanting desperately to please his father, Chick thereafter often hurts his mother’s feelings by his choices, and then one day Len walks out on the family, with Chick thinking that either it is his failure and his mother’s that drove him away.
Chick continues to strive hard in high school to perfect his game, earning a partial scholarship so that with the money his mother earns from her cleaning of houses, he is able to attend a college. His father shows up to watch him play, soon bringing with him a talent scout. Chick resists his father’s advice to drop out of college and sign a contract, but he gives in, thus breaking his mother’s heart. After playing on a farm team of the New York Mets, he gets his chance to play in a World Series game when called up to replace an injured player. Fate then intervenes to spoil his career, and his father disappears again from his life.
We see all of the above and more in snatches of flashbacks during the dark night when Chick is involved in an auto crash and hovers between life and death. This is when his mother appears to him and he is granted the “one more day” of the title to spend with her. She reveals a family secret that changes how Chick looks at her, himself, and his father, and which might lead him to break with his past addiction. Like the other two films based on a Mitch Albom book, this one offers insights into human nature and relationships. The film reminded me a bit of my favorite “baseball picture” Field of Dreams, in that both suggest that ours is a universe of grace, one in which we are given a second chance to redeem past mistakes. It concludes with a nice surprise, revealing to us the identity of the female reporter to whom Chick is telling his “sort of a ghost story.”