Saturday, September 10, 2011

Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of Dreams is a hit.

Oh, this dramatic fantasy from director Phil Alden Robinson (Rhinestone [VHS]) borders on schmaltzy at times.

This is a film where handshakes and knowing nods between men mean a lot. There's awkward talk between men about, you know, stuff like relationships and feelings.

And, yes, the plot largely centres on one of the biggest gimmicks of stories involving some sort of time travel -- the desire to right a past mistake.

Oh, and Field of Dreams isn't always subtle about advancing the plot.

But, for film-goers willing to suspend their disbelief, Field of Dreams does offer an intriguing story about following dreams, making amends and not being afraid to take risks.

"Until I heard the voice I'd never done a crazy thing in my whole life," Kevin Costner's character notes in the film's introduction.

A solid cast steps up to the plate in this film including a young Gaby Hoffman (Uncle Buck), screen icon Burt Lancaster (From Here to Eternity) and early film appearances from Timothy Busfield (Sneakers) and Ray Liotta (Dominick and Eugene)

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is still hurting from terse words he directed at his father before leaving home at 17. His dad, a big fan of the Chicago White Sox, died before he could apologize.

Now a corn farmer in Iowa with a wife and daughter in Iowa, Kinsella begins to hear messages from a phantom voice. Each cryptic suggestion from said messenger, including "If you build it, he will come," and "Ease his pain" prompt Kinsella into action.

Neighbours stop and gawk by the side of the road when he starts plowing under a section of his corn field to build a baseball diamond. Kinsella feels compelled to meet up with reclusive famed writer Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Boston and take him to a Red Sox game. Why, he's not sure. They try to track down Dr. Archibald 'Moonlight' Graham (Lancaster), who actually did play one inning for the New York Giants in 1905.

The messages lead to back to Kinsella's baseball field where members of the Chicago White Sox associated with the 1919 World Series scandal have come back to play. Remember what I said about suspending your disbelief? The farm's about to be foreclosed. Will Kinsella give up his baseball dream so he can keep his land?

It's neat to see a film offer a fantasy world that doesn't need to based on millions of dollars of special effects. Such an approach worked just fine in Frank Capra's magnificent It's a Wonderful Life. Here, a step back 20 years is done with a few changes, including an election poster on a street light, to a downtown street. Wonderful.

Costner does well in his everyman role during a string of hits when he was king of the leading men in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Field of Dreams does a good job of blending fantasy, sports and family in an efficient 105 minutes.

RATING: 7.5/10

ONE QUESTION: Anyone know what Kinsella says to Mann when he leaves their motel room? Even with the volume cranked up, I couldn't make out what Kevin Costner says.

FUN FACT: Field of Dreams was released after the death of actress Anne Seymour in December 1988. She appears as a newspaper publisher. Her career started in 1944. One of her early roles was in the political drama, All the King's Men.

Field of Dreams was the second-last film role for Lancaster.

My Grade 12 English teacher would be awfully disappointed if I didn't mention Field of Dreams was based on W.P. Kinsella's book, Shoeless Joe. The Canadian novel was required reading in his class.

A short, Field of Dreams 2: Lockout, about the NFL lockout, was released in 2011. Ray Liotta and Kevin Costner appeared.

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