Haven’t written a movie review lately because I haven’t been to the cinema since the Oscar-nominated short films four months ago. Last full-length film I saw, with the Daughter, was Wreck-It Ralph in February; last non-animated full-length film I saw, with the Wife, was Silver Linings Playbook back in January.
One of the movies I most wanted to see was 42, based on the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. I remember watching the TV show The View back in April from a hospital bed and being annoyed that my doctor came in, to discharge me, no less. It was just at the point I wanted to listen to the interview of Chadwick Bosemen who played Jackie in the movie; at least I got to see Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers who brought him from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945 to the Dodgers’ farm team in Montreal in 1946 to the big leagues on April 15, 1947i.
Finally get a free Sunday afternoon, so I look at the Thursday preview section in the local newspaper, and discover the movie has just left the Spectrum, my favorite venue. But it’s playing at the nearby Madison Theatre, so off the Wife and I go, leaving the Daughter with a child watcher.
This has never happened before – we are the ONLY people in the theater. The movie was supposed to start at 4:05; finally, the previews began at 4:10. (My goodness, we’re SO not seeing GrownUps 2.) This allowed more talking than we would normally do, mostly on her part. (Yes, Eddie Stanky was that guy’s name.)
Much of what you might have read about the film is true:
*The baseball scenes seem very authentic. There is a specific incident involving Robinson and his teammate Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) in Cincinnati in particular that resonated; my daughter had given me a book a couple years ago about that very story.
*Boseman was very good as Jackie, sometimes conveying emotion just with a look in his eyes.
*Nicole Beharie had the sufficient moxie to please the real Rachel Robinson, who is still alive.
*The story, in a lot of ways is more about how others reacted to Jackie: Rickey; the black newspaper reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) hired by Rickey to be his “Boswell;” the racist players and managers and crowds. In part, that’s a function of Ford being a bigger star than Boseman. It’s also true that because Jackie had to control his temper in that first year in the big leagues, one didn’t get to hear too much of Jackie’s real thoughts during the first year in the formerly white major leagues.
* Yes, if there were a Lifetime movie stations for sports, this might fit in; I don’t mean that pejoratively.
On the other hand, I did note some who said that it was too much about Robinson’s ordeal and not enough about the man; I reject that criticism in that what he went through was precisely why he’s honored every April 15, with every Major League player wearing #42. I also don’t accept the notion that it should have been about a period wider than 1945 to 1947. A film about his later political involvement is a different movie.
Finally, I was only mildly distracted by the number of TV actors I recognized: Chris Meloni from one of those Law & Order shows as manager Leo Durocher; T.R. Knight and James Pickens Jr. from Grey’s Anatomy as a Dodgers executive and a Florida man showing Jackie some hospitality, respectively; and John C. McGinley from Scrubs as Red Barber. Didn’t recognize, though, Max Gail from Barney Miller.
All in all, I recommend the film 42. A solid triple – I mean, three out of four stars. More than that, I might show this to the Daughter when it shows up on DVD, which I imagine will be soon.