(ABOVE IS THE COMMENT BOARD AT GATEWAY)
Full disclosures: 1) I am not a baseball fan 2) I am not a Harrison Ford fan 3) I am not a ‘Hollywood biography’ fan and 4) because of the latter, I take ‘based on a true story’ with more than a grain of salt. Okay, now that I got that out of the way let me say GO SEE “42”!
More than a baseball story this is about love between a man and woman, two men with tremendous courage and how one man can make a difference. This is a story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman, in a breakout role) who became the first major league black baseball player. It is about a man, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) who picked Robinson to do just that and backed him all the way just as his wife, Rachel Robinson, (Nicole Beharie) did.
Thanks to the screenwriter and director, Brian Helgeland, you are taken on a roller coaster ride of sweet moments, comedy and anger while cringing at some of the true language many whites used against blacks and why Robinson was the man Rickey picked because he knew the former had the guts not to fight back. He shows, in only one scene, how it ate at him. Besides the language Robinson was hit by baseballs, had his foot stomped on by an opposing player and wasn’t wanted by most of the other players on his team.
Harrison Ford shows he is more than just a ‘pretty face’ or action star. He disappears into the role of the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager completely and shouldn’t be forgotten at award time. Boseman and Beharie have great chemistry between them and the former, as the baseball player, shows how he drove the other teams pitchers and catchers crazy as he ‘danced’ in between bases either by stealing them or catching the others so off guard they dropped the ball or threw it wrong. More important Boseman shows the intelligence of the man inside the player and what he faced.
There is a big supporting cast without a weak link. One of the funniest scenes in a movie in a long time, which could have gone awry, is when pitcher Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) wants to know why Robinson won’t shower with the rest of the team and it dawns on him that what he is saying could be taken the wrong way. Christopher Meloni effective, as Leo Durocher, is out of the film too soon. Lucas Black as shortstop Pee Wee Reese as the first player to embrace Robinson on the field touches you just as the language and taunts yelled at Robinson in public by the manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) of another team will make you gasp and/or cringe. T. R. Knight is strong as Rickey’s assistant as is Andre Holland as Wendell Smith the first black sportswriter to be accepted in theSportswritersAssociation. John C. McGinley is Red Barber who is a legend, even today, as a radio announcer for the Dodgers.
“42” takes place during 1945 to 1947. I was about 10 years old and don’t really remember all of this though I did root for the Yankees against the Dodgers. This is a film that should be seen by all generations and especially the kids of today. Whether Jackie Robinson was as completely as ‘good’ a man as writer/director Helgeland makes him to be or the too pretty film isn’t as gritty in appearance as it should be one must realize that this is a ‘Hollywood biography’ but it will get you cheering and some will even applaud as the closing credits show what happened to most of the people pictured.
THIS IS A MUST SEE FILM!