I mentioned before that even though I’m not a sports fan at all, I am a sucker for a good sports movie. THE NATURAL has always been considered one of the most-beloved baseball films of all time and I hadn’t seen it since I was young. I little schmaltzy at times, the movie is still effective as a redemption tale and I think it’s simply impossible not to be moved by the final sequence with that effusive (and iconic) score by Randy Newman.
Farm boy Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) has a gift for playing baseball and he dreams of playing in the majors. He finally gets his shot but when a mystery woman (Barbara Hershey) shoots him the day before his big break, his hopes are dashed.
Years later, Roy resurfaces and manages to get picked up by the New York Knights. But as the leagues oldest rookie (at 35-years old), team manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) refuses to play him. When all looks most dire, Roy convinces Fisher to give him a chance.
It turns out that Roy still has some of that magic and quickly becomes the star player at bat. But forces both physical and karmic are conspiring against him and it takes his belief in his dreams to navigate the rough waters and fulfill his destiny.
Based on the revered novel by Bernard Malamud (which I have not read), the movie veers 180º from the book’s more somber and ironic ending. This might have angered fans of the novel, but it seems appropriate for the film.
Directed by Barry Levinson with some truly exceptional camera work by Caleb Deschenel, THE NATURAL is a gorgeous looking film and truly evokes the era when Baseball personified the American dream.
Redford is charming as always as the put upon protagonist and it’s his integrity as a public figure and actor that shines through and brings Roy truly to life. He’s surrounded by a fine supporting cast that includes (at the time) newcomers Glen Close and Kim Basinger as well as stalwarts like Robert Duval, Robert Prosky and Richard Farnsworth as well as an uncredited Darren McGavin.
If you are a fan of sports movies than THE NATURAL is a MUST SEE. For the rest of you, the film still stands as a quality tale of redemption that culls from real life events to retell a Camelot-like story.
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