Thursday, November 30, 2017

Field of Dreams (1989)

WARINING:  I’m going to give away details of the movie, including the ending.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to wait before reading the review.

I’ve had the urge to watch old movies again.  I saw Field of Dreams many years ago.  When it became available on Netflix, I wanted to see if the movie would change with perspective.  I remembered a lot of it, but I wondered if the context had changed.  Is there anything that I’d pick up on now that I wouldn’t as a teenager?  The short answer is no.

For those that haven’t seen it, Field of Dreams is a movie about Ray and Annie Kinsella.  They buy a farm and live there with their daughter, Karin.  One day, Ray hears a voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come.”  Ray has no idea what it is supposed to be.  He’s given a vision of a baseball diamond, which he builds.  Apparently, Ray and Annie are hovering around the break-even point with their farm.  They have to clear their cash crop for the diamond, which will most likely bankrupt them.

They do it anyway.  Months pass and nothing happens.  One day, Shoeless Joe Jackson shows up in the diamond and asks if he can play there.   Jackson even brings the other players involved in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.  Ray then gets another message from the voice:  Ease his pain.  Who’s pain?  Ray and Annie eventually come to the conclusion that the voice is referring to Terence Mann, an author who didn’t have an easy time with fame.  Mann also wanted to play baseball when he was younger.

Ray visits Terence in Boston.  The two eventually go to a baseball game, where Ray receives another message:  Go the distance.  He also sees stats for Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, who had played in just one game.  When Ray and Terence visit Minnesota to find Graham, they find that Graham had died years ago after becoming a doctor.

Ray is able to go into the past and meets Graham, who explains what the one game was all about.  Graham refuses Ray’s invitation to come back and play baseball.  Ray returns to the present and eventually goes back to Iowa with Terence.  On the drive back, they pick up a young hitchhiker names Archie Graham.  When they arrive on the farm, young Graham joins the players for a game.

The next morning, Annie’s brother, Mark, arrives to urge Ray to sell the farm, which he’s been refusing to do.  (Mark can’t see the baseball players.)  Ray knows that any subsequent owner will likely not maintain the baseball field.  An accident with Karin forces Graham to walk off the field, becoming the man that Ray saw in the past.  He helps Karin, then walks off into the corn field.  Mark is then able to see the players; he urges Ray not to sell the farm.

After seeing the movie again, I found that there wasn’t any special message hidden away.  It’s simply about a man who listens to a mysterious voice’s vague messages.  The one thing that had me wondering is how one baseball field would bankrupt the farm.  Granted, they were on the brink, but it looked like they Kinsellas had a pretty decent sized property.  I don’t know how selling corn works.  Are you able to get several crops during a season?

How would such a small part of their corn crop cause them to miss several mortgage payments?  I’m kind of wondering if this was done to give Ray something to worry about.  There’s no clear antagonist, so they had to have Mark try to get Ray to sell the farm.

I didn’t think the movie that great.  It’s not a story of conflict like you’d find in other movies.  The only real threat Ray has is the mortgage, which he deals with by ignoring.  Ray doesn’t seem to do much to earn additional revenue until the end of the movie, when it’s implied that he could charge admission.

Ironically, the actual diamond used in the movie still exists.  I’m not sure what kind of burden this placed on the actual farm, although the property has been sold at least once, according to Wikipedia.  There’s no fee for admission or parking, although there is a souvenir shop.

The movie is based on a book, although I’m not sure how true the movie is to the source material.  There do seem to be some differences, though.  In the book, Ray has a twin brother.  Terence Mann was actually J. D. Salinger.  (The name change was due to Salinger implying he’d sue if the character made his way to an adaptation.)

I’m not really sure what to make of the movie.  It’s enjoyable, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d watch over and over again.  It’s the kind of movie they might play in a waiting room.  It’s safe for most people.  It’s rated PG, mostly for some language in one scene.  (A woman accuses Terence Mann of masturbation and calls his work pornography.)  There’s also some cursing.  The only four-letter word is spelled out at PTA meeting.  Other than that, it’s mostly damn and hell.  It’s basically a great movie for streaming.  Unless you’re a baseball fan, I’m not sure if you’d want to buy it on DVD.

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