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Field of Dreams (DVD, 2004, 2-Disc Set, Anniversary Edition - Full Frame Edition)
(59 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating:
Were It Only A Field Of Reality
Oct 5, 2000 (Updated Oct 5, 2000)
Review by George Bounacos
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Outstanding story and some very strong acting
Cons:Tiny flaw - a little too long at the conclusion
An old axiom states that every man has one great story in him about his relationship with his father. Field of Dreams is one such story, written by William Kinsella, who in the best tradition of Frank Capra, manages to gleefully wrap sentiment around his tale without overdoing the emotion.
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Our home has a ritual that compels us to watch Field of Dreams every spring. Thatís a time when the movieís main element, baseball, is bursting forth into our consciousness again. Spring warming encourages us to look at the greenery around us and marvel in the rebirth.
The Message: What The Film Means To Me
Rebirth is really what this film is all about. The protagonist is an extremely well centered family man who has literally returned to the roots of the earth and become a farmer despite having no prior knowledge of that particular occupation. He is a devoted husband and father with a strong work ethic, but as he reaches his mid-to-late thirties, an incomplete past calls to him in the guise of a disembodied voice.
With virtually no idea why his compulsion his so strong, the hero begins a string of activities that will bring his family to financial ruin, to say nothing of public ridicule. His wife remains a rock of steadfastness, and to his daughter, her fatherís actions are viewed with absolute trust borne of a devoted family man.
You know heís right. And so do they. Thatís why the script, punched up from Kinsellaís original novel by director Phil Alden Robinson, is so critical to the movieís success. The audience must be teleported with the noble family to a point where they too believe that miracles are still a part of our world and that a good person is rewarded.
If you have seen the movie, you know exactly what Iím writing about. If you havenít seen the movie, there is absolutely no way that I am going to spoil this event for you. Ignore the catchphrase, ďIf you build it, he will comeĒ and focus instead on the message. Rebirth is possible, but painful. One may not even know what is to come; indeed, for a complete rebirth, one should not know, but should instead purge themselves by rebuilding their spirit or soul from within, layer by layer.
Kinsellaís character makes that journey and the trip is an incredibly intense and rewarding ride.
The Film: Characters, Plot, Fun Little Trivia
Field of Dreams was released in 1989, an extraordinarily good year for American cinema. The competition was fierce enough to shut the film out of the Academy Awards, although it did receive three nominations. This was the year of My Left Foot, Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Born on the Fourth of July, and Dead Poets Society. There werenít enough awards available to recognize all of the deserving performances, scripts and productions. Still, Kinsella and Robinson deserved at least a nomination for this beautiful story and James Earl Jones and Amy Madigan deserved supporting actor nods for their respective roles as a J.D. Salinger-like spiritual mentor and the unflappable wife.
Kevin Costner, in the second of his baseball movies, gives a solid performance as Ray Kinsella, a character named after the authorís son. Thereís clearly a large element of the real Kinsellaís fears of how he will be viewed by his family in future generations. Weíre not talking about a Clintonesque concern over legacy, but the fatherís real fear that he did right by the child he helped shape. Costner displays none of his usual smugness, and his work here is simultaneously vulnerable and enthusiastic.
Amy Madigan, a terrific actress who remains underrated, seems to be known more these days for being married to actor Ed Harris than for her own work. Thatís a shame because her performance as Annie Kinsella as a woman rooted alternately in Midwest farm tradition and the Flower Child 1960s is a joy. She remains the true rock of the family, calculating the bills and counting the days to foreclosure. Standing by her man, she is never subservient but instead an equal partner who is willing to risk her way of life for the passion her husband feels, but she does not initially share.
One of my favorite characters has always been James Earl Jones, who plays the role of Terrence Mann. In Kinsellaís original novel, this character is actually J.D. Salinger, but the reclusive author was reportedly so upset by his appearance in the novel that a new character was created for the film. Given Jonesí race, thereís also a hint of Ralph Ellison in the portrayal, which is just fine by me because Ellison was a better writer and spoke more to what the turmoil of the 1960s truly meant than Salinger ever did. I still believe that this is the finest work Jones has ever done, even better than his Oscar nominated role in The Great White Hope. His Terrence Mann lends an air of authenticity to the film that allows it to remain somewhat grounded in reality and gives the fantasy elements room to breathe.
There are other very strong performances here, most notably Burt Lancaster as Moonlight Graham. Confession time Ė thereís a touching scene with Lancaster towards the end of the movie that is one of the few scenes in any movie that brings me to tears. The fact that this was Lancasterís last major film role before he died in 1994 doesnít help in subsequent viewings. I promised no spoilers, but if youíve seen the movie youíll know this line, and itís not a spoiler if you havenít seen the movie.
ĒSon, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes... now that would have been a tragedy.Ē
I still get goose bumps from that scene and the line beautifully caps the entire moment.
There is also a strong performance for Ray Liotta, who plays his part in a perfectly understated manner. Telling you more about Liottaís character qualifies as spoiler, but he deserves credit for shading his larger-than-life character with enough humanity to make a gorgeous performance.
I Donít Like Baseball So I Ainít Watching It
You know, after giving Field of Dreams a try, you just might like baseball. Although a knowledge of the game is hardly necessary to be swept away by the filmís emotion, Jonesí character reminds Kinsella,
ĒThe one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.Ē
Heís right; baseballís stories and their place in the American psyche remain as strong as ever despite the increasing market share of other sports. One need only witness the historic home run chase of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa or the pure work ethic of Cal Ripken in recent years to know that Americans still love their baseball heroes.
Having seen the film more than a dozen times with a variety of audiences, however, I can assure you that love or even knowledge of baseball is an extra bonus, not a requirement. The film speaks more to seeking out an inner peace that comes from doing what is fundamentally right for yourself and your loved ones, not of batters and balls. Baseball is merely the setting for this story, which is one that employs enough comedy, poignancy, fantasy and suspense to accomplish what every work of art sets out to do Ė engage the emotions.
I wonít end with a baseball pun, which no doubt causes ecstasy for those who have read my previous work. Iíll simply end by saying this is one of the best films I have ever seen, and it holds a high place in my familyís lineup of special films. If you havenít seen it yet, do yourself a favor and do so soon.
Please read the other "Sports Movie Reviews" by other terrific Epinionators in this write-off: amylensor, awoolcott, bigjack, driver4t5, fm_hunter, foxfroggy, hhire, j3nny3lf, janesbit1, jennifer_gibbons, katetpz, kinganamort, kingjfs, roadiem and soxfan.
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