‘Reverse the Curse’ review: Dying man’s fate hinges on ’78 Red Sox in Duchovny’s offbeat film

Fan is short for “fanatic,” and we’ve had quite a few films in which undying and sometimes irrational and unbalanced loyalty to a particular sports franchise is either at the center of the story or a key plot element, going all the way back to “Damn Yankees” (Washington Senators) through “Rudy” (Notre Dame) and “The Fan” (San Francisco Giants), as well as “Offsides” (Iranian soccer team), “Big Fan” (New York Giants) and the recent “80 for Brady” (New England Patriots and TB12.)

Adding to the lineup of films about Boston sports fans that includes “Celtic Pride” and “Fever Pitch,” we have the solid, ground rule double of a comedy/drama “Reverse the Curse” from writer-director-star David Duchovny, who provides a steady hand behind the camera and gives a winning performances as a diehard Red Sox fan who hopes to literally not die before the 1978 pennant race plays out.

Based on Duchovny’s novel “Bucky F- – -ing Dent,” which would have been a much grabbier title but OK, “Reverse the Curse” is an offbeat, darkly funny and moving gem. We know exactly where the story is going (though there are few curveballs along the way) and how it will end — but even though that ending includes an epilogue we could see coming like a hanging change-up right down the middle, you can’t help but choke up.

Logan Marshall-Green brings an appropriately 1970s-indie movie vibe to Teddy, a promising but unsuccessful writer who ekes out a living slinging peanuts at Yankee Stadium. Teddy doesn’t have much of a relationship with his father, the cynical and wisecracking Marty (Duchovny), but when he learns Marty has less than a year to live, he offers to move in with Marty, at least for a while. There’s nobody else to look after Marty, save for the nurse/therapist Mariana (Stephanie Beatriz), who specializes in caring for patients in the final stages of their illnesses.

As Marty gripes and makes jokes about his condition, Teddy detects a pattern: When Marty’s Boston Red Sox are winning, Marty has more energy and a better outlook on life. When the Sox lose, Marty falls into a funk. At one point, the Red Sox have a 14-game lead on the Yankees, but as the losses pile up, Teddy teams up with Marty’s friends to keep him in the dark or lie to him about the results. They break his TV, steal his newspapers, even simulate rainouts via a garden hose outside the window and creating “thunder” by waving tin trays. (Meanwhile, Teddy and Mariana strike up a friendship that could turn into something more, and we hope it does, because these are two semi-broken people who deserve a shot at happiness.)

All these years later, it’s hardly a spoiler alert to reveal it all came down to a one-game playoff, with the Yankees’ light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent breaking the hearts of Red Sox Nation with an unlikely three-run homer. Late in the game (in more ways than one), Marty finally explains to Teddy why he always kept Teddy at arm’s length, and it’s a devastatingly effective emotional gut-punch. Duchovny has never been better. Even if you’re a Yankees fan, you’ll appreciate the heart and passion of “Reverse the Curse.”

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