Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022): 2023 has already blessed us with two soaring biographical films. Air and Tetris showed the journeys of men obsessed with a goal and going to any length to make it work. Mike Faist starrer ‘Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game’ follows the same pattern. It tells the story of Roger Sharpe, who was obsessed with the game of pinball. The same obsession, coupled with some career setbacks eventually turned Faist into a savior of this game that was incriminated for strange reasons. This comedy-drama, written and directed by Austin Bragg and Meredith Bragg, is now available to watch on Hulu.
Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022) Movie Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
What is ‘Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game’ about?
‘Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game’ is about Roger Sharpe and his legacy as a savior of Pinball. He is known as the man who lifted New York City’s 35-year-old ludicrous pinball machine ban. The film takes a flashback-driven narrative route to delve into Roger’s journey. Mr. Sharpe (Dennis Boutsikaris) talks about the fact that a film is being made about his life. He shares cues about how the story should be told. His journey began in Wisconsin, where he went to college. That’s where Roger (Mike Faist) tried playing Pinball for the first time.
Initially, he was a mediocre pinball player. But he stayed persistent and eventually became much better at the game. During college, he met Judy (Olivia Koukol) and married. She wanted him to work for her father’s furniture store. Roger wanted to pursue a writing career in Advertising in New York. So, he divorced her for his ambition, which left him high and dry. He tried getting a job at several advertising agencies, but his writing samples kept getting rejected.
Roger & Ellen’s First Date
During this low phase of his life, Roger once again met the love of his life – a Pinball machine! He heard the distinct sound of pinball in an adult bookstore. So, he went inside and could not stop playing. For days after that, he kept revisiting the shop in his leisure time to play it. One day, on an elevator to his job interview, he bumped into Ellen (Crystal Reed). He awkwardly managed to have a dialogue with her and tried getting a date with her.
Roger eventually went for his job interview to speak with the editor of GQ magazine. Jack Haber (Mike Doyle) and Harry Coulianos (Bryan Batt) looked at him as a safe bet and hired him as a writer for their lifestyle column. They expected him to capture the conventional, mainstream topics of interest. While working on the assignment he was supposed to submit, he called Ellen. Yet again, he struggled to ask her out on a date. Still, she was charmed enough by his awkwardness that she agreed to go on a date with him.
During the call, Roger revealed that he used to work in advertising. Ellen revealed that she was a single, divorced mother with a child. During the date, she told him that she works as a secretary to provide for her family. Besides, she wanted to have more children if she married someone. Despite those responsibilities, Roger went ahead with the date. He eventually learned that she was older than him. Furthermore, he couldn’t think of anything else to say besides talking about his sister, who is the same age. He also shared his past about how he was an aspiring writer who recently got divorced. She saw no issues with it.
Roger’s Professional Life at GQ
In his professional life, Roger met his colleagues from the art department, Pamela (Supriya Ganesh) and James (Toby Ragbo). They found him too genial for their taste. In his personal life, he officially started dating Ellen. He brought her to what he considered his shrine. The older Mr. Sharpe objects to showing them getting erotic while playing on the machine. So, instead of a conventional, creepy version, we get to see a version where they fell in love with each other over their shared interest in pinball.
Later on, the writers at GQ were expected to share topics for their new edition. Unlike seasoned writers, Roger struggled to come up with a subject that they had not covered before. While needing to come up with something different and interesting, Roger told his colleagues about his newfound love. They advised him to go forward with this relationship despite the risk of it not panning out well.
While Roger tried to advance in his romantic life, he learned a piece of shocking news. The cops destroyed the pinball machine from the adult bookstore. It turns out the feds busted this place not for adult pop culture but for a machine to play games on. It was because Pinball was banned in New York City for over three decades. Back then, a New York mayor banned it as a way to get rid of corruption. He said and made people believe that pinball is bad for kids.
While Roger was heartbroken by this loss, Ellen finally allowed him to meet her 11-year-old son Seth (Christopher Convery). Roger then found a new calling and decided to get to the bottom of the truth of his beloved machine. He met Chairman Warner (Michael Kostroff) to ask about it, who disrespected and outright dismissed him. He eventually met Danny Frank (Eric William Moris) from MAA (Music & Amusement Association) to get a look at their pinball machines. Roger learned that someone could buy pinball machines if they are not using them for commercial purposes.
Origins of Pinball in Chicago
Later, Roger pitched Jack about getting an article written about pinball. Jack approved it and sent James along with him for research. He took Ellen and Seth to join them for a trip to a New Jersey shop filled with pinball machines. Roger learned only then that Pinball originated in Chicago. Even though Roger grew up there, he never saw any. That was because the machines were also banned in Chicago. Anyhow, Seth’s interest in Pinball made Roger even closer to Ellen. He became aware that Seth is an inseparable and important part of her life, and so is his.
Soon after, Ellen visited Roger at his place and helped him with writing faster with her typing skills. After that, she continued helping him with these tasks. Since he impressed Jack with his research, he asked for a trip to Chicago. Jack did not allow that since it’s not an extensive book but a magazine article. But Roger could not rest until he could do extensive research on this topic. So, he decided to write a book without the magazine’s support and got it funded by other publishers. He subsequently purchased a pinball machine and brought it back home for Seth to play with.
Once Roger’s GQ article came out, Danny came to meet him personally. He asked Roger to testify to defend their case about lifting the ban on Pinball. At the time, Roger turned them down. Meanwhile, he continued his research for the book and went to meet Sam Gensberg (Todd Susman). Since Gensberg shut him out, he barged into the man’s cabin and saw the prototype for their new game. He impressed Gensberg with his insights & charm and, thus, managed to secure an interview with him.
Sam’s Book on Pinball
Sam kept meeting more people to speak about pinball, from Gensberg and Alvin Gottlieb to Sam Stern. They shared the details from their past and about the evolution of the game. Roger also learned about a man called Harry Williams, who was known as the Thomas Edison of pinball machines. But, he could not meet the man since he was retired and was in California. During times in between, he started bonding well with Seth and impressed Ellen with his emotional maturity.
Soon after, Danny and Sam tried to get Roger to speak at the trial in favor of their case. He denies testifying for them. Eventually, Harry (Mitche Greenberg) called Roger himself and invited him to California. Roger worried about the financial burden it would put on them since his advance for writing the book was already spent. Ellen still supported him and pushed him to pursue this topic further. To make it work, he, unfortunately, had to sell his beloved pinball machine to get the flight across the country at the last minute.
Harry Williams & Roger Sharpe’s Meeting
Roger Sharpe went to meet Harry Williams in his California home. He shared how he fell in love with the machine and why he wanted to improve it. Harry shared how he wanted to be a Disney animator but started working on Pinball. Roger listened to it with a childlike curiosity. Harry shared details about the issues they faced from the lawmakers due to gambling claims. He also talked about his inventions to make Pinball a more challenging, exciting, and rewarding experience for the players. Harry believed that the game became famous because it gave a sense of accomplishment. It made the players feel that what they do, matters.
Once Roger finished the manuscript with Ellen, the family went out to a bowling alley to celebrate. Over there, Roger found a new ‘compromised’ pinball machine without a plunger that was designed to adhere to a law. Seeing the lawmakers resisting the innovations for ludicrous reasons, Roger finally decided to fight to save it. He met with the MAA officials to share his wisdom. He wanted to call it a game of skill, not a game of chance. In fact, he proposed to bring the pinball machine to prove this point in court.
Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022) Movie Ending Explained:
How does Roger Sharpe save the Pinball game?
While the MAA officials worked on the strategy to win the case to save Pinball, Roger practiced his skills on their machines. Pamela and Harry helped him with his appearance at the court. The publisher proposed cutting the book in half from what Roger wrote. She thought that no one would want to read a long book filled with interviews about the game’s history. That’s no fun like how the game is. However, Roger did not want to compromise on the book. So, he pulled out of the deal, which did not sit well with Ellen. At the time, he childishly chose the game over building a family with Ellen and her son.
Finally, at the trial, Roger got to make a case to the city council. The chairman and others continued calling the Pinball machine a ‘gambling device,’ and Roger kept defending their claims. He stated how only a few people using it for gambling could not discredit its entertainment quotient. Roger pointed out how the messy, uncontrollable game is based on a player’s choices. Just before he was supposed to go on with his demonstration, he went out to call Ellen. Right after speaking about the choices, he started reflecting on them. That’s what made him realize that he messed up things with Ellen. He made a bad choice, he regretted it and decided to act upon it instantly.
After this endearing dialogue, Roger returned to the courtroom and started showing his skills. Even though the chairman asked to change the pinball machine (due to his fear that Sharpe & MAA might have rigged theirs), Roger was not stopping. Still, it did not end in a conventional ‘triumphant moment’ ending that one would assume. Roger took the shot, and the chairman got bored of it in no time. Nevertheless, he changed his mind, and through a unanimous vote, the ban on pinball got lifted in New York. Similar laws were also rolled back in other US cities.
Later on, Roger Sharpe started working as a consultant for the game. He also finished the book after the hearings with his own money. He also got married to Ellen and started a family with her. Despite this progress in personal and professional life, he claims that he never sold any of his Pinball machines.
Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022) True Story Explained:
Yes. ‘Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game’ is based on real events and an actual ban on Pinball from several cities in the US. Dennis Boutsikaris, who plays a version of Mr. Sharpe in the film, shares a few bits of this true story. 1933 Fiorello La Guardia ran for mayor, promising to rid New York City of corruption and organized crime.
Since he wanted to find a way to make his actions seen and heard, he banned Pinball. He said Pinball machines were being used for gambling, ruled by the mob. He called it a racket to steal lunch money. So the machines were confiscated, destroyed, and used the material for other reasons. The ban was lifted thanks to Sharpe’s wit, knowledge, and undying obsession.