A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Field of Dreams

April 4, 2011

Field of Dreams

Our third baseball movie is not really a baseball movie. Oh, sure it involves baseball and it has a couple baseball games in it, but it’s not really about baseball. It’s a supernatural drama about missed opportunities and reconciliation. It’s about impossible magic and dreams. It’s gorgeous and mythical and special.

Part of what makes this movie so magical is how aware the characters in it are of how impossible the events in their lives are. When Ray Kinsella starts to hear a voice in his corn field he doesn’t immediately go out and do everything it says. He spends some time agonising about the idea that he’s going insane. He knows that his actions appear crazy to the people around him. Luckily for him his wife is completely understanding of his new found quest and his daughter, with her childlike nature, is almost as much a part of what’s going on as her father is.

So Ray plows under his corn field and puts up a baseball diamond because he thinks it’s something he’s meant to do. And ghosts of baseball players past start coming to his magical diamond to play again. First there’s “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and soon he is joined by his team mates, all of whom were banned from baseball for throwing a world series game. It’s an opportunity for them to enjoy the game they used to love so much once more. Baseball here is every lost dream, every missed chance, every youthful decision that could have gone another way, and Ray is able to give these poor lost souls something they didn’t have in life: redemption.

Then Ray feels compelled to go to Boston to seek out a reclusive author named Terence Mann who has isolated himself and given up on the ideals of his youth. At first Terence will have none of it, but soon he finds himself also caught up in Ray’s madness and the two of them head out to Minnesota in search of a mysterious ball player who had a major league career that lasted all of one game. As they take this journey together things get progressively more strange and confusing. They arrive in Minnesota to find that “Moonlight” Graham has been dead for more than a decade and that he was better known as a philanthropist and doctor. Meanwhile the forces of pragmatism and level-headedness are closing in on Ray’s wife and threaten to take the baseball field away from him.

The writing in this movie is absolutely spellbinding. From Joe’s speech about losing baseball being like losing a limb – feeling it still there but knowing that it’s gone – to every fantastic flowery phrase uttered by Terence Mann this movie is packed with fantastic dialog. From the touching, funny and stirring voice over that introduces the film to its magical conclusion when the true purpose of the field of dreams is revealed this movie IS a dream. A delirious and beautiful dream.

The star caliber involved is almost blinding. Terence Mann is the role that James Earl Jones was born to play. The arc he portrays – from isolated and miserable to alive with delight at the implausibility of his own fate – is the stuff from which acting legends are born, and Jones delivers such power to the role that he almost manages to make the movie about him instead of Ray. Kevin Costner, meanwhile, does his usual trapped every-man character, and does it well. He manages to perfectly capture the buried hurt of Ray and his pain over the death of his estranged father so many years ago. Then there’s the immortal Burt Lancaster as the kindly doctor Archibald Graham. He gets one of those fantastic speeches this movie is full of when he describes his dream of batting, just once, in a major league game – something he never got to do in his life and has had to reconcile himself to never having.

Amanda is going to use her library powers to get a copy of the novel this movie was based on, and I’m dying to read it now myself. I want to know how much of the credit for the magic of this movie goes to novelist W. P. Kinsella and how much is the work of screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson. Either way this movie is a treasure and something to be watched over and over again for anybody who loves the ideas of dreams coming true. I just have to be sure I have enough tissues handy when I do.

April 4, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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