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USA 1989
Directed by
Phil Alden Robinson
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Field Of Dreams

To like Phil Alden Robinson’s movie which was adapted from a 1982 novel 'Shoeless Joe' by W. P. Kinsella you’ll need to be at least one of the following: a) an American b) a baseball fan; c) a Kevin Costner fan; d) a child; or e) soft in the head. Vector those subgroups and it is little surprise that in its home country Field Of Dreams is a much-loved film.

Costner plays Iowa farmer and baseball fan, Ray Kinsella, who hears a voice telling to him that “If you build it, he will come” accompanied by a vision of “Shoeless” Jackson (Ray Liotta), a famous baseballer from the 1900s, standing in a baseball field amongst the ripening corn. They have a chat.  Instead of having him sectioned his wife Annie (Amy Madigan), tells him to go ahead and build it and before you can say “montage” he’s got a brand-spanker of a field complete with stadium lights just outside their bedroom window.

Although he is supposed to be on his financial druthers (which, to oil the wheels of drama, movie farmers usually are on) where he found the $250 grand (my minimum estimate) to build the field is never explained, let alone why there is no parking, a problem which as the final scene of hundreds of cars queuing to get into Ray's field suggests would have been, to say the least, a significant problem

Then The Voice, asks Ray to "ease his pain". Thanks to his right-on wife Ray interprets this as a reference to author and Civil Rights activist Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones). Ray heads to Boston to meet Mann and bring him back to Iowa. On the return trip they pick up Archie "Moonlight" Graham another deceased baseballer.  Ray then travels back in time to 1972 to meet Graham as an old man (played by Burt Lancaster in his final big screen role). Oh, and Ray has father issues focused on the fact that they didn’t play enough catch together before he died.

Having/following/believing in dreams is a staple of American popular culture which in turn depends on and reinforces the myth of the American Dream. Needless to say Field of Dreams draws deep from this well (just in case you hadn’t appreciated this you get a reference to Henry Koster’s 1950 fantasy film, Harvey in which James Stewart’s character has an invisible six foot rabbit for a friend) with the game of baseball serving as an icon of childhood innocence, family values, ethical integrity,The American Way and whatever else you'd like to throw at it.

Who better to play the literally corn-fed dreamer but Kevin Costner who conveniently must have still had his wardrobe from another baseball film in which he had starred the previous year, Bull Durham (1988).

There is something to be said for American optimism and it is perhaps true that sometimes dreams do come true but the routine directing and galoops of mawkish sentimentality of this, at best fairy tale, is straight off the Dream Factory production line.




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