My Top 60 - No 11: 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
‘Field of Dreams’ (1989) is like the Robert Redford vehicle ‘The Natural ‘(1984) before it, a mystical and magical film but one that as its backdrop is the sport of baseball. However ‘Field of Dreams’ has something extra special about it which demands regular viewing in that it has a true spiritual core, that is both affecting and moving.
Its history is interesting in that it is based on the novel ‘Shoeless Joe’ written by Canadian writer W P Kinsella which tells the story of a father and husband Ray Kinsella (played here by Kevin Costner in his prime) who runs a farm with his wife (and 1960’s rebel) Annie (Amy Madigan) and daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffman). Whilst out farming one day, Ray hears a voice telling him “If you build it, he will come” and he sees a vision of a baseball ground. He then feels called to cut down his farm and build said baseball ground with floodlights etc effectively bankrupting him and his young family.
Eventually, from nowhere a baseball player (‘shoeless’ Joe Jackson- a player banned from playing in real life due to an infamous 1919 betting scandal and someone adored by Ray’s late father) appears and asks if he can bring the rest of his team to play. When they also turn up (they think the field is Heaven) it emerges that they were all members of the same betting scandal, but now they just want to play ball.
Whilst wife Annie tries to keep the farm from being re-possessed by the bank and keeping their family together, Ray hears another message telling him to “ease his pain”. He believes that it has something to do with reclusive author Terence Mann (the brilliant James Earl Jones) (based on real life novelist and recluse J D Salinger) who wanted to play big time baseball himself and one of his characters in his book has the surname Kinsella….
So, starts an epic mystical journey that Ray Kinsella makes to meet Terence Mann and to work out what these messages to him means for him and his family, and what he should do next…
‘Field of Dreams’ (1989) is a simply wonderful movie. You might think it is just about someone who loses their marbles, starts hearing messages and ends up putting his whole family and himself in peril, but it is much more than that. It is fundamentally about a man who is still grieving over his father, who said some awful things to him, wants to take them back and say that he loves him but can’t because it is simply too late. But Life gives him another chance. It is also about how sometimes you need to dream ‘big’ and say ‘Yes’ to what is asked of you, no matter how absurd it might be.
The mystical elements of the movie are where it excels. James Earl Jones as Terence Mann realises that rather than be a recluse because of the unwelcome fame that his classic novel brought him, that he should simple do what he is –a writer. A cameo by Burt Lancaster as a no hit wonder baseball player but who finds his true vocation in saving peoples’ lives is also a real highlight and one of the finest performances of his long career.
Writer Director Phil Alden Robinson has weaved a wondrous film with a first class cast and makes you feel better having just watched it, and you will want to watch it again. It has real good humour and love at his core and it shows just how good an actor Kevin Costner can be.