Monday, April 15, 2013

4/15 and '42'

Now's about the time I should get to talking about Jackie Robinson. Why? Because, around the league, it's Jackie Robinson day, which means every Yankee will be wearing Mariano Rivera's number. In all seriousness, it must be cool for Dodger fans especially to see everyone on their team wearing 42, and remembering one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

However, that's not why I wanted to talk about Jackie Robinson. True, today is a big honking deal, and it should be remembered, but Jackie Robinson's story was just featured in a biopic. And it came out last Friday. And yes, I saw it.

So what can I say about 42? It is detailed. Any sports movie's job is to be detailed, but it really shows its stuff. Every shot is well lit, well designed, with the right amount of subdued light. Every uniform is reminiscent of the ones from the 40's. Hell, a lot of the actors playing the players look like them, like the guy who plays Ostenmuller, or the guy playing Pee Wee Reese, or a bunch of the other Dodgers. A few exceptions to that are the known actors in those roles. Like when you see Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher, you don't seen Durocher, you see the guy from Law and Order playing him. Or when you see Alan Tudyk from Dodgeball playing Ben Chapman. You sorta see the actor coming through.

However, two actors in this are truly remarkable, and disappear into their roles. The first, of course, is Jackie Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman. He captures the personality, appearance and thoughts of Jackie Robinson, and he's really, really good. The way the movie's written shows us where he's coming from, and what he has to deal with, and he's very good in that department. There's a scene where Ben Chapman, the Phillies' manager, basically yells curses at him for five minutes, and he holds it in, and tries not to lose his temper. And he's very good. Of course, part of what makes Boseman fit in so well is the fact that he wasn't a very big star, and his largest prior credit was on a short-lived crappy show called Persons Unknown, which I believe I was the only person who watched.

The other actor, also unsurprisingly, is Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. When I heard he was playing Rickey, I thought he'd really fit, and he'd add a lot to the role. He's brilliant here, taking the crotchety-but-wise aspect, and having some of the best lines of the movie. He also just fits into the character perfectly, and adds a lot of his own to the character. Thanks to Ford, Rickey comes off as a compassionate, driven-to-win kinda guy, who starts out wanting Robinson for the money, but ends up wanting him for something greater.

On the whole, the movie is beautiful, a brilliant baseball movie, one that should be universally loved and remembered through the years, such as Field or Dreams, Bull Durham and The Natural. However, this is different than any of those, in that it's a beautiful movie, but also a great portrayal of a real person, and a real year in the life of a team. Those movies are made up, but still classic. This should be a classic because it tells the story in a way to appeal to everyone who witnessed it, as well as everyone who didn't.

So to answer your question, I thoroughly enjoyed 42. Jackie would be proud.

(And I still have another post coming, because April 15th means something else to me besides Jackie Robinson.)

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