Sunday, April 28, 2013

42, a Movie Review

42 brings to mind several things - The Summer of 42, that coming of age movie of love and the loss of innocence - the class of 1942, that remarkable class of brave young men who graduated in the spring of 1942 then joined the armed services and went straight into WWII. But, this 42 actually takes place in 1947. 

Now to those of us who do not follow box scores, pennant races, and the boys of summer, 42 may be lost on us. However, any true baseball fan knows 42 was the number on Jackie Robinson's jersey when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The only number in baseball to be retired - never to be worn again, with the exception of one day in April each year, when every major league player wears number 42 on their jersey. 

Robinson was an exceptional player. The nemesis of many a pitcher. He could steal a base like Elvis could steal hearts. But, he went where no man like him had ever gone before. A black man playing in the major leagues. He was the first player to rise from the negro leagues and play in the majors. Actually he was hand picked to be the first.

Branch Rikki, owner of the Dodgers decided the time had come to balk segregation. And, to do it he needed a damn good player and he found it in Robinson. He supported him all the way, and it was ugly. In fact it was America at her worst. But, Robinson persevered  only because of the support of Rikki and Robinson's loving wife Racheal. And, Baseball has never been the same since. It has only been better.

The film not only scratches the scar of segregation, it reminds many that its ugly face was not just in the south but all over the nation. And, how the "colored" (as they were referred to) were a proud people and handled racism with a stiff upper lip. Robinson was a small ray of sunlight peeking in the end of a long tunnel. And, what better place to start than on the field of America's past time, baseball.

Now, I would have expected this role to be played by Denzel Washington. However, I assume he was too busy flying a plane upside down, trying to stop an out of control locomotive or dealing with the future apocalyptic world. Chadwick Boseman plays the role well as a proud black man with a temper simmering just beneath ready to blow at any time restrained only because he just wants to play ball. 

Harrison Ford plays a strong (but unrecognizable) Branch Rikki who stands by his guns despite the obstacles before him. He never waivers on his decision to add Robinson to his roster.

Nicole Beharie plays Robinson's wife Rachel, who is his rock. And, although, she too deals with the issues of racism in a segregated country everyday, she doesn't let it get to her. Her faith in Jackie keeps him going.

An educational way to spend 128 minutes. If you don't know the story, you need to learn about it. If you do know the story, there is probably more here that you didn't know. And, everyone needs to be reminded of that ugly time and that, hopefully, it is behind us.

1 comment:

Dan O'Neill said...

Good review. You don't have to be a fan of baseball to like the movie, but it definitely wouldn't hurt.