Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday on the Field of Dreams

I recently re-discovered this classic when I stumbled upon the still-in-the-wrapper blu ray on my shelf. Once again it left my tear-ducts dry at the end. “Field of Dreams” begins with Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hearing a voice in his cornfield: “If you build it they will come.” SCENE SPOILER ALERT! From this and a vision he gets, he decides to plow under his crop and build a baseball diamond. What makes this funky fantasy of a film so memorable? Here goes my viewpoint…

For one thing, it’s one of those rare films guaranteed to make grown men cry. Although it may seem to be about baseball, it’s really more about father-son relationships, the regret of lost dreams from youth, and how a supportive and loving partner can really make your life pretty damn wonderful. What man can’t relate to the scene of Costner in bed one night, relating his regrets to his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), and worrying that he is turning into (gasp) his father? Or at least what he negatively perceived his father to be.

Amy Madigan gives a memorable performance as the rare partner who has both a sense of the spontaneous as well as a grasp on reality, knowing when it’s time to listen to reason. She gives support and love to her husband without making him feel like a fool. So many times in movies (and sadly in real life), her role would have been written as a henpecking shrew who constantly nags.

James Earl Jones was brilliantly cast as Terrence Mann, a writer from the sixties who went into seclusion and stopped practicing his craft to the chagrin of readers everywhere. In the novel that the film was based on, “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella, this part was written as real-life author J.D. Salinger (“Catcher in the Rye”). Wisely, Phil Alden Robinson, director and writer of the screenplay, decided creating a fictional character would serve the plot better.

The scenes between Jones and Costner are fun to watch. Ray attempts to coax Mann out of his apartment to help make his field of dreams come true. Jones commands the screen with every frame he is in, but is never over the top.

Burt Lancaster also shines as an aging doctor, Archibald Graham, who once had a dream of being a big league baseball player.

One of my favorite scenes has actress Anne Seymour as a writer at the local paper. She reads the obituary that she wrote for Doc Graham to Ray and Terrence. It is a small part, but memorable. This was the last film the actress completed. I know at least one of my readers will remember her as Mrs. Tarbell from Disney’s “Pollyanna.”

The tears really start to flow when Doc Graham must choose between a career of baseball or the life of a healer. The shot showing the transition of his shoes is brilliant.

The final tear-inducing scene is when Ray’s father (Dwier Brown) appears on the field. What tortured father-son relationship could resist the opportunity to make amends like this?

My one negative about the film is Kevin Costner’s performance. For the most part, he was the right choice for the part. I just wish that the director had more carefully coached his performance. Too many times he gives off an artificial “Aw, gee whiz, look how much of a humble midwest farmer I am” vibe. And then there are the times that he truly nails the part. It’s just a minor gripe. This film really deserves to be watched again.

Did you took over $25,000 worth or irrigation to make the cornfield grow? During filming, Iowa was experiencing one of the worst draughts in its history.

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