Category: Sports | Baseball | Drama | Romance | Literary Fiction
Director: Barry Levinson | Author: Bernard Malamud
Studio: Columbia; 1984
Keywords: Baseball; Depression-Era America; Boyhood Dreams; Ordinary Heroes; Everyday Magic; Hope Triumphs
Just in time for what should be the beginning of baseball season, I offer a glimpse at a baseball movie derived from a book that is less well known than – and not as good as – the film.
The Natural (1984) is a rare case of a movie being much better than its source material, in my opinion. Barry Levinson’s cinematic version of Bernard Malamud’s novel overcame the book’s cynical and depressing story, set during the Depression, with an optimistic and, ultimately, joyful screenplay by Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry.
The film pulses with the heroism of ordinary people pitted against and rising above the greed and weakness of the dastardly evildoers, enhancing the thematic metaphors. All of the actors – especially stars Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger – evoke the archetypical characters so well that you can’t imagine anyone else playing them, and the secondary players hit their marks equally well – who doesn’t love Wilford Brimley?
The effective and affecting character interactions and exciting baseball action are accentuated by the alternately reflective and rousing score by Randy Newman and the period-perfect cinematography of Caleb Deschanel.
Especially at this time of year – and at this challenging time – an inspiring baseball movie offers a needed message of hope and triumph, something we all wish for our world as we wait for that grand slam to take us home one day soon.