Wednesday, January 21, 2015

42 (2013)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

In high school, I had a P.E. coach who had lived in Miami when segregation was still in effect.  He told the class that blacks weren’t allowed to be in Miami Beach at night without a work permit.  (If you look at old photos of Miami Beach, it’s also not uncommon to see signs prohibiting Jews.)  I’ve never known segregation in my lifetime.  However, there are still people alive that remember a time when blacks were denied service.

42 is about Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player to play in Major League Baseball.  The movie starts with Robinson playing for the Kansas City Monarchs.  He’s about to be recruited by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  At first, he’s to play for the Montreal Royals, which is the minor-league affiliate of the Dodgers.  After proving himself, he’s promoted to the major leagues.

Rickey admits that the decision is motivated primarily by money.  Having a black player will attract black fans.  Black fans will pay green dollar bills, meaning more money for the team.  Since money’s on the line, he has to know that Robinson won’t react.  If Robinson responds to a racial slur, people won’t remember what the other guy said.  If he hits someone, no one will care what the other guy did to provoke it.  Papers will report that Robinson lost his cool.

Being that the movie is based on historical events, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing that everything works out for Robinson.  This isn’t to say it was easy.  Boseman does a great job of showing the frustration of a man that can’t fight back, despite wanting to.  Phillies manager Ben Chapman is shown as having no shortage of racial epithets and unkind remarks to spew at Robinson.  Robinson just has to take it.

It does have that feel-good ending where we get the sense that Robinson has made it, but I’m sure that it was still an uphill battle for him and for other black baseball players that followed.  The recent victory of an American of Indian descent in the Miss America pageant proves that we still have a lot to overcome when it comes to racism.  (We may have gotten rid of the separate bathrooms, but there are still people out there that only see skin deep.)

I normally don’t watch biographical movies.  The only reason I watched this was that my parents had rented it from Netflix and kept it so that I could watch.  I remember seeing the coming attractions and being somewhat interested, so I decided to at least give it a try.  I have to wonder how many of the facts were glossed over.  According to IMDb, some liberties were taken with history, attributing quotes to the wrong people.  I’m not sure how readily he was accepted by his teammates.  Then again, it’s based on a true story, not presented as totally accurate. 


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