14 February 2007

88. field of dreams




sarge loves this shit. i can see why. it starts with a great opening montage, a cornucopia of still and moving images from old to new, with a voiceover by kevin costner telling us about baseball, his dad, and himself. and that's the movie in a nutshell.

i was surprised by how quickly we are introduced to The Voice. its immediate. costner is in the field in the first shot (post-intro) and The Voice come to him: "if you build it, he will come." this is now iconic, but think about how that must have felt to new audiences -- what a great hook!

and one thing i love about this movie is the reaction the characters have to the supernatural. ray hears a voice in his field, and he and his wife, both old hippies, have a very accepting and bemused view of this new intrusion on their lives: "what did The Voice say today?". compare this to an m. night shamalamadingdong movie, where hearing a voice would mean ray's daughter would mope around or cry in the dark. in this movie, such a supernatural element is described as "really interesting" and "cool". ray and his family think this whole thing is fun and they want to see what happens next, and the audience can't help but agree. and i love that decision on the part of the filmmakers.

this movie is in a long line of media and pop culture that uses the supernatural or ghosts as a genre or conduit to explore more "literary" themes. "beloved" would be another, but in this case the theme we're looking at is how the national pasttime of america helps bind together fathers and sons. deeper than that, though, is the way fathers can live vicariously through their sons, and how the unfulfilled dreams or goals of a father can be taken on by a child. i'm reminded of my step-grandfather and his dream to live and die by the water; he never got it, but my step-father just moved to the ocean to retire based on his own desire and his need to fulfill that unrequited dream of his dad.

otherwise, this movie is classic hollywood stuff in all the best ways. they have a charming movie star in the lead role. its easy to forget why costner was so big when he was, but he had good looks and a very palpable everyman quality to him that was very engaging. and the structure of the film is fast and solid: within the first fifteen minutes the field is built and we're given tons of wonderful information about the setting and the backstory of ray's family and what shoeless joe jackson means to both him and the world at large. and then: he shows up. the movie's good writing shows in its economy, its humor, its raising of the stakes with money issues (losing the farm), and the way it uses its central theme to touch us and reaffirm our national notions like all good classical hollywood cinema:

the last thing ray says in his intro voiceover is "i'm afraid i'm turning into my father." and this movie rebukes him: is that really such a bad thing?

2 Comments:

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