Published on: April 19, 201342
is not a perfect movie, but it is a story that needs to be told, over and over, about Jackie Robinson, one of the most important people of the 20th century.
That's not hyperbole on my part. I've always felt that way. Jackie Robinson's role as the first black man to play Major League baseball broke down barriers in a way that could not be ignored by the American public, in ways that helped to ignite the civil rights movement in this country. And he did it with a righteousness and basic decency - not to mention an extraordinary, transformational athleticism - that could not be ignored.
It is a hard story to film, in part because the demands of the times and Branch Rickey, general manager of the Dodgers, included the requirement that Jackie Robinson not show his interior life, that he be stoic in the face of the worst kind of prejudice. That made Robinson hard to criticize, but it also makes him harder to play. He is the ore of the story, but in some ways the events being dramatized are taking place all around him.
That said, Brian Helgeland (the writer of LA Confidential
, The Green Zone
and Mystic River
, as well as a graduate - may I say with a certain level of pride - of Loyola Marymount University) has done a strong job writing and directing the Robinson story. One of his real strengths is casting - Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, Nicole Baharie as his wife, Rachel Robinson, and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, form a trio that gives the film a real moral and ethical backbone.
Ford has the showiest role, and he is all bluster and eyebrows as he challenges baseball and societal orthodoxy. He's also terrific ... and I can't remember the last time I said that about Harrison Ford. It's like he's been set free by actually having a character to play, as opposed to an icon or stereotype. Baharie is both beautiful and totally convincing as a woman deeply in love with Jackie and understanding that there is both a toxicity and a nobility to their circumstances. And Boseman manages to communicate through his eyes and posture the inner rage of a man yearning to be treated as an equal by a society that does not see him that way - it is an excellent performance that manages to give us a sense of the man's inner life. (Kudos, also, to Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher and Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman - two managers with vastly different views of Jackie Robinson.)
Interestingly, I've heard two sound bites in recent days that sounded remarkably similar. One was an interview with Robinson on "Meet The Press" in 1957, and the other was a sermon given by Martin Luther King Jr. ... and in both cases, they made the case forcefully that while some people thought that black people should be patient about gaining full rights, the time for waiting was long past.
"I think if we go back and check our record the Negro has proven beyond a doubt that we have been more than patient in seeking our rights as American citizens," Robinson said. "Be patient, I was told as a kid. I keep hearing that today. Let's be patient; let's take our time; things will come. It seems to me, the Civil War has been over about 93 years; if that isn't patience, I don't know what is."
That seething righteousness is implicit to Boseman's performance, and the film as a whole.
If I have one complaint about the movie, it is that it is, at times, predictable. There are moments when the screenplay seems to be checking off the points that it thinks need to be made. One example - a scene where a father and son attend a ballgame together, and when he hears his dad utter racial epithets about Jackie Robinson, the son does the same. It struck me as being an obvious scene ... but it also had an undeniable power.42
is a movie that seems to capture a time and place with great accuracy. (Not so much some of the baseball details, but that's in the name of drama.) It deserves to be seen. It needs to be seen. And today, when I put on the blue Brooklyn Dodgers cap that I've been wearing for years, I'll do having a little better sense of the man who best personified the Dodger franchise.
There are two movie trailers online that have absolutely ignited my imagination - for Man of Steel
, the new Superman reboot, and Star Trek Into Darkness
, the latest film in the venerable franchise. Go check them out ... and if you're anything like me, you'll be ready to buy your tickets now.
Two wines to recommend to you this week...
• 2011 Griffin Creek Viognier, from Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley, a lovely white wine perfect for sipping as the days get warmer.
• 2010 NxNW Cabernet Sauvignon, a delicious blend of grapes from a number of regions in the Pacific Northwest (or, as it is known here at MNB Global Headquarters, paradise).
That's it for this week.
Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.