Field of Dreams
An Iowa farmer working in his cornfield hears: "If you build it, he will come"; the voice repeats. but he doesn't see anyone. "Field of Dreams" begins as a loving, sensible young couple start a family farm: Ray and Annie Kinsella (Costner and Madigan) have had it with city life, and want to sit on their porch and hear the grass grow. Then the movie seems to become religious, about a humble farmer hearing a voice to build a cathedral. ((But here, the religion is baseball. When Ray doesn't understand the spoken message, he's sees a vision of a baseball diamond in his field. Build that, the voice hints, and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson will play there. Jackson was on the scandalous 1919 Black Sox team, but protested until his death that he never intentionally lost a game.
Many current movies refuse us flights of fancy; Frank Capra might have directed, and James Stewart might have starred in, this brave film. Of course, the bank decides Ray is nuts, and tries to foreclose his mortgage. He goes to Boston to get support from a famous writer (Jones) who has virtually disappeared, and to Minnesota to talk to a doctor (Lancaster) who never got to play pro. ((Director Robinson and writer Kinsella love baseball, and admire a simpler time, when professional sports were just games, not industries. That theme is very close to their own hearts: The author and protagonist have the same last name. Ray gives a heartbreakingly simple, profound speech about baseball. The movie rightly doesn't try to explain strange events that take place after the diamond is built; its poetic vision offers its point.
Players don't come back from the Great Beyond to play in Ray's cornfield for any vast, earthshaking reason, but simply to hit and field a few, so they and we can have a good, innocent time.((The movie flouts the danger of being ridiculous. But Costner and Madigan create a grounded, believable married couple, who reveal that love means sharing your loved one's dreams. Jones and Lancaster are two old men who took what life offered, but never forgot what baseball meant to them. This delicate mix of one goofy fantasy upon another won't appeal to realists, but has courage. In reply to, "If you build it, he will come," he does, with only a modest aim. The ghost of Shoeless Joe wants to answer that wounded cry now a baseball legend: "Say it ain't so, Joe!" His answer is, "It isn't."
Phil Alden Robinson
Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster
1919 baseball scandal; redemption; visions; baseball diamond
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