A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 401 – Bull Durham

Bull Durham – April 5th, 2011

I remember first seeing this movie with Andy some years back and liking it fine, but not being bowled over by it. And I wasn’t sure why at the time. I mean, it had a cast I liked and sure, I don’t like baseball but it, like last night’s movie and The Natural aren’t so much baseball movies as stories using baseball as a vehicle and a theme. So what about it just didn’t sit well with me? And I’ve figured it out. This movie is a romantic comedy. And oh boy am I picky when it comes to romantic comedies.

Now, this movie is not nearly as problematic as crap like What Women Want and that piece of shit called You’ve Got Mail (I really really really hate that movie). And I enjoy it! I enjoy it quite a bit. But there’s something in there that rubs me wrong and it’s a well worn romantic comedy trope. A strong female character is presented and she knows all sorts of things about her area of expertise (baseball, in this case). But through the course of the movie she finds that she doesn’t truly know what she wants in life and love and must be shown what she’s been blind to by a man she first rejects. What softens it here is that Annie doesn’t reject Crash. She’s interested in him, for certain. He just doesn’t want to play around. He wants something either more frivolous or more serious. Compatible in many ways except the way Annie works during baseball season. So I’m a lot more willing to let him have his rom-com smugness than I usually am.

Okay, the line “Why do you get to choose?” still makes me cranky. She gets to choose who she wants to sleep with because it’s her body, jackass – no one says you have to take her up on the offer but you don’t get to choose for her. And in everything else? Annie is awesome. This is the thing about romantic comedies. They often do have a fantastic female character. It’s just that the romance portion seems to need to include the female character learning about love from a man. Shame, that, because Annie seems to have everything else well in hand. She knows her own mind about everything else. She’s well-read, thoughtful and philosophical, but also rational. She knows how the season works. Annie Savoy spots a promising player in the minor league team the Durham Bulls. And if she hooks up with said player and coaches him through the season, he ends up having the season of his career. He gets a lifetime of baseball playing theory and advice and she gets a fun relationship for the duration of the season. And it all works out just fine for her and she’s happy. Until about twenty minutes into the movie. If that.

The movie introduces Crash Davis, a catcher who’s had a chance at the majors and ended up back in Durham, and Ebby “Nuke” LaLoush, a pitcher with a fantastic arm and not a lick of sense. Annie sees them as her best prospects and tells them as much. Crash passes on her offer and so she takes on Nuke for the season. And between Annie’s coaching off the field and Crash’s advice on the field, Nuke ends up having a killer season (when he listens). But of course Annie realizes she doesn’t really want Nuke. Sure, she’s willing to keep going, but it’s no longer enough for her. She wants Crash, and not just for the season. This creates a conflict, since she’s committed to Nuke. Crash wants her, she wants him and Nuke’s there like a big slab of beef wedged between them. As a plot set-up, it’s fun. As are the interactions between all three of them.

There are some fantastic scenes in this movie. I love Annie’s tutoring of Nuke and his dawning realization that hey, people know stuff and maybe he should pay attention. I love how he’s getting strange but useful advice from Annie on how to get his mind in the right place for the game and then practical down-to-earth useful advice from Crash on how to actually play. It’s a great balance and combination of personalities. And then Annie and Crash have some good chemistry. I might not like the smugness, but really, by the time the movie hits its peak they’re both miserable and grouchy because neither of them can have what they want and they’re too far into the season to change anything. It also helps that I like both of them. Crash is, overall, a nice guy. He plays good ball, he gets on well with the rest of the team. Annie’s a nice woman, perhaps a little over-focused on her sexual allure, but hey, she’s hot and she knows it and she uses what she’s got to help players she likes. And she has no shame in it. The movie attaches no guilt or anything of the sort to Annie’s relationships and history, which goes a long way towards making me like it.

Overall, it’s a fun comedic movie with a romance at the center but plenty of stuff surrounding it that make it an a-typical romantic comedy. I love Susan Sarandon as Annie and Tim Robbins really does play a good affable lump, doesn’t he? And much as I dislike the smugness, I think this role is a tossup with Ray Kinsella for Kevin Costner. Both excellent performances from him. It’s a good script, full of quick and clever lines. Sometimes Annie’s voiceover exposition is a little much, but I don’t mind it. It gets sentimental without getting maudlin and in the end I feel like all three main characters got to actually stay who they were to begin with, just in a far better configuration.

April 5, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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