Recommended viewing: The Natural
for those who haven't seen the film yet, a review:
When you think of successful baseball themed films they all seem to have one thing in common: they're not really about baseball. With Field of Dreams
, it was about the relationship between father, son and country united by the game. Bull Durham
focused much more on sexual politics on and off the field and had a much lighter touch. The Natural
comes closest to being about pure baseball, but at its heart, it really boils down to a meditation on the choices we make everyday and how they affect the rest of our lives.
Starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, a young man who has been gifted with the talent to play baseball since childhood. On his way to Chicago to try out for the majors, Roy encounters a woman named Harriet Bird, who first attaches herself to The Whammer (Joe Don Baker), the greatest living baseball player, and then to Roy, when she realizes that he will eventually become the greatest of the great. Then, the unimaginable happens. Harriet commits an act that tragically cuts short Roy's career as a baseball player, even before it begins. The film then moves forward sixteen years, where we find an older Roy reentering the game he loves, at an age when a player should be retiring from the sport. Roy is signed to play for the struggling New York Knights by The Judge (Robert Prosky), the unscrupulous co-owner of the team, who is trying to steal the team from his partner, Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley). Unfortunately, the only way Pop can retain ownership of the Knights is if the team wins the pennant for the current season. Considering that Roy should be way past his prime, it becomes apparent that to Pop that The Judge signed Roy to a contract simple because he figures that the retirement age rookie will be absolutely no help to the team. However, even after sixteen years away from the sport, Roy still retains his tremendous talent, which comes a complete surprise to The Judge, as well as everyone else associated with the game of baseball.
is a beautifully acted film that benefits from a wonderful cast. Certainly, Robert Redford is the heart and soul of the movie, giving a performance of understated grace. Glenn Close has never been as serene or radiantly beautiful on the screen, as she is portraying Iris Gaines, the girl Roy leaves behind, when he goes off to play baseball for the first time. Kim Basinger shows some of the stuff that earned her an Academy Award later in her career, as Memo Paris, the somewhat tainted woman who catches Roy's eye when he joins the Knights. Robert Duvall and an uncredited Darren McGavin give wonderfully oily performances, as two men who try to manipulate the game of baseball to suit their own purposes. The cast also includes the late, great Richard Farnsworth, Alan Fudge and Michael Madsen as a prima donna outfilder.
Directed by Barry Levinson, his second film after his smash debut effort Diner
. As he later showed in films like Good Morning Vietnam
, he's a director that can make small, personally involving films. Another plus is the absolutely incredible score by Randy Newman. Bordering on a fable, yet so engaging you can't help but lose yourself in the story.