• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:January 18, 2019

Field of Dreams: Ease Your Pain


fieldofdreamsOne of the very best movies about baseball made a heartfelt case to have the legendary “Shoeless” Joe Jackson inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It still hasn’t happened though; Jackson remains banned, along with seven other White Sox players, for having cooperated with those who fixed the World Series in 1919. It’s the greatest scandal of the sport and perhaps Jackson deserves his fate; the topic is still hotly debated. But there are those who feel that decades later it is time to forgive Shoeless and honor his achievements.

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is 36 years old and has made a nice life for himself, marrying Annie (Amy Madigan), having a daughter (Gaby Hoffmann) and embarked on a career as a corn farmer in Iowa. Still, Ray has never done anything crazy in his life and has this fear of turning into his father who never made a weird move in his life and simply got old by the time he reached Ray’s age. One evening when Ray is walking in his cornfield he hears a voice whispering “If you build it, he will come”. He can’t believe what he just heard, but the voice grows stronger and so does the feeling that what he should build is a baseball diamond. Eventually, Ray makes the admittedly crazy decision to plow down a huge part of his cornfield and build the diamond. Annie reluctantly lets him do it.

A year passes and the Kinsellas begin to wonder if they shouldn’t grow corn in the diamond due to financial strains. Then suddenly, a man appears in the middle of it. He turns out to be Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), somehow transferred from 1919, feeling slightly confused. Soon all of the eight banned White Sox players show up, throwing balls at each other. However, the voice returns, telling Ray to “ease his pain”…

The audacity of dreaming
The movie is as much about the beauty of baseball as it is about that social and cultural revolution in America that we call the 1960s. Ray Kinsella grew up in those tumultuous days and building that baseball field becomes his version of honoring the rebellious achievements of Martin Luther King and the other icons of the ’60s.

It helps that he’s married to a woman who, in one memorable scene, stands up to a neighbor at a townhall meeting and tells her and the other conservatives present that banning books is what Nazis did. The man who wrote the controversial book in question is Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) who becomes a key character in the film; disillusioned by the tragic events of the ’60s (the war, the murders of prominent national figures, the election of Nixon), he initially refuses to listen to the idealistic Kinsella but is soon won over and rekindles his early passion for doing what’s right. The title of the film is apt; the story has fantastical elements and relies on both nostalgia and the audacity of dreaming. The results are immensely entertaining and touching as well as intelligent and should connect with not just baseball fans.

Costner is ideal in the lead and is supported by a great cast; Madigan as his passionate wife, Jones as the cranky novelist, Lancaster as the old pro and Liotta in his breakthrough as the dreamlike vision of Shoeless. James Horner’s moody music score emphasizes the emotional possibilities of that Iowa diamond.

Speaking of Iowa. The actual baseball field built for the movie is still a hot tourist attraction where anyone can come and spend a little time, throwing balls and thinking of realizing dreams and fixing what’s wrong with your life. The movie’s psychology may be utterly lightweight… but it’s undeniably powerful schmaltz.

Field of Dreams 1989-U.S. 106 min. Color. Produced by Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon. Written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Book: W.P. Kinsella (“Shoeless Joe”). Cinematography: John Lindley. Music: James Horner. Cast: Kevin Costner (Ray Kinsella), Amy Madigan (Annie Kinsella), Gaby Hoffmann (Karin Kinsella), Ray Liotta (Shoeless Joe Jackson), Timothy Busfield, James Earl Jones… Burt Lancaster.

Trivia: Tom Hanks was allegedly considered for the lead. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are allegedly among the thousands of fans at Fenway Park in one scene.

Quote: “If you build it, he will come.” (The Voice instructing Kevin Costner)

Last word: “I think that what we did was try very hard to deliver on screen what Kinsella wrote in his book. Yes, we changed the structure around but that was necessary because the film was different than the book.  We had to make that change in order to do what the book wanted to do. Really, I’m proud of it, but it was as much luck as it was design on my part. It was luck that the book came to me and it was luck that I got to it. It was luck that we got Kevin [Costner]. I really lucked out. In my head, I had a much more expressive impressionistic piece of cinema. I realized on set though that I just didn’t have the skills to do that.” (Robinson, Stumped Magazine)

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