Monday, April 15, 2013
Cindy Prascik’s review of 42
Dearest Blog, having survived a bout with the Death Flu on Friday, today I rewarded myself with a trip to the cinema. On the docket was my much anticipated baseball drama 42.
Spoiler level here will be as mild as possible for a story about a super-famous person who's been dead for four decades.
Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson becomes the first man to break Major League Baseball's color barrier.
Well, dear Blog, there's no sense denying it: I'm stupidly sentimental about baseball, and therefore stupidly sentimental about baseball movies. Not once did I get through the 42 trailer sans tears, so needless to say I expected the film to be the emotional equivalent of a 15-car freeway pileup.
Chadwick Boseman, who isn't quite a newcomer but certainly is new to headlining a project of this caliber, carries 42 with flair. A weaker performance easily might have been overcome by Harrison Ford's strong turn as Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager (then titled "business manager") Branch Rickey; depending on how strong the field is, I won't be surprised if voters remember his performance come awards season. Supporting players include a few of my faves: Brett Cullen (too briefly...again), Christopher Meloni, Hamish Linklater, and Steve the Pirate Alan Tudyk as the bigoted jerk manager of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. The cast is almost uniformly strong, with only Nicole Beharie coming off a bit too dewey-eyed and perfect as Robinson's wife Rachel. (In fairness, writing may be to blame there; more on that later.)
Though I loved it overall, 42 does have a few faults worth mentioning, the first being that it is, at times, too earnest with its message. There are two kid scenes at the ballpark (which I won't spoil here) that are played way too hard for tugging the heartstrings, and it was absolutely unnecessary; the film speaks for itself and needn't have hit viewers over the head. Secondly, the movie portrays Robinson's wife (now widow) Rachel, and therefore their relationship, as just a bit too perfect. Remember a few years back when VH1 did that Temptations biopic? At my house, we call it "The World According to Otis." The only surviving Temptation at the time was Otis Williams, and the mini-series went out of its way to make sure viewers knew Otis was the good guy in...well...everything. I'm not sure how much of a hand Mrs. Robinson had in this film, but it definitely skews towards making her look brave, flawless, and pretty much responsible for Major League Baseball not being an all-white sport to this day.
Finally, my two favorite teams, the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates, are portrayed as dicks and laughingstocks, respectively, a view many hold of both teams to this day. History is what it is, but they didn't have to keep saying, "Pittsburgh??" like it was some big damn joke. (Though I did laugh anyway.)
While 42 successfully tells what's ultimately an uplifting story, the racism that was the norm for the time is more than uncomfortable to watch...all the more so for knowing we aren't entirely past it a half-century later. Still, the fact that we keep telling the story leads me to believe we'll get there someday, and that the movie earned a houseful of applause in my not-necessarily-progressive little town lets me hope we're closer than I think. Oh, and to the staff and management at the Highlands' Marquee Cinemas, that flood in room 12 was just my tears. Sorry about that.
42 clocks in at 128 minutes that’s as deliberately-paced as the game of baseball itself, though it doesn't feel long. It's rated PG13 for "thematic elements, including language." (At one point, dialogue prompted a little boy at the back of my cinema to ask, "Dad, what's adultery?" to which his father hastily replied, "NOTHING!")
42 is a great movie about the great sport of baseball. If it comes on a bit strong with its message, well, that's easily forgiven when the message is this important.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, 42 earns seven and a half.
Now, dear Blog, if you'll excuse me, my flu-decimated self needs a nap. Until next time...