Wednesday, April 17, 2013

42 and The art of the baseball film

"Dad was a Yankees fan then so of course I rooted for Brooklyn. But in '58 the Dodgers moved away so we had to find other things to fight about"-Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams 1989

Film audiences have had a love affair with baseball movies since the beginning, from Pride of the Yankees, The Natural and Bull Durham to The Bad News Bears and Major League we have watched them over and over from beginning to end until every line was memorized. To me baseball films just feel different then any other sports film, maybe it's because unlike other sports, like football or basketball every town and every city in the country has a baseball team (Little league,The office team, minor league or major league). I remember going to games during the summer as a young girl and although I may have not understood or even paid attention to the players (I may have even fallen asleep) I still enjoyed the whole experience, rooting for the home team, eating hot dogs and Cracker Jacks (For its 1,2,3 strikes your out) and when we watch all this on the big screen we are taken back to our own childhoods and for a moment in time an adult can be a kid again, 42 is no different.

 Beautifully directed and written by Brian Helgeland (A Knight's Tale, L.A. Confindental) the looks and sounds of the 1940s come alive in this new film. Based on the true story of how Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to join a major league team in the late 1940s when segregation was still the law of the land. The movie tells what happened when the President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford had a new idea to make money, at the time those who worked closest to him like Harold Parrott (T.R. Knight) and his team manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) told him is was a bad idea and said that it wouldn't work and nobody will like it but Mr. Rickey tracked down Jackie Robinson, who was already a  ballplayer, played by Chadwick Boseman and hired him to play for The Montreal Royals and eventually The Brooklyn Dodgers.

The story itself is one of courage, love-for the game and his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) and what it took for these two men to make baseball better and even change and start a new chapter in this country's history. No one including his own teammates wanted Robinson to share the same field as them, let alone locker room and bus. He was ridiculed by everyone in the business including Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) and could not physically fight back knowing that it would ruin his or any other man of color chance to play in the big leagues. With him, besides his devoted and loving wife was African American reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) whose job it was was to keep Robinson safe while writing his story. Within the drama there were a few silly, laughable scenes like whenever Robinson was getting ready to steal a base and the private moments between Jackie and Rachel or one on one with a teammate or Rickey were priceless. The acting is superb as Ford and the rest of the cast become these real life people and not just characters.

In conclusion from what I saw at 10:30am on a Sunday morning is that this is a film where a grandfather can take his grandson and watch and learn something together. It is a film like other baseball movies where you find yourself rooting for the lead, in this case although you know what happens you are still sitting there in your seat right along with Jackie Robinson hoping that he makes it through ,day after day, game after game proving to himself, those around him and the spectators that this is where he belongs. There may be "no crying in baseball" but there was plenty of crying and applause in a more crowded then usual theater on the day I saw 42.