As usual, if you haven’t seen the film in question – in this instance, “42” – you can skip this post. Or don’t. Up to you.
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Last week I saw 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic (of sorts). It took me a few weeks to get to it, which is surprising, considering how much I like baseball. But it happens.
Anyway, it was hard for me answer the question, “was it good?” I mean, yes, I liked it, but what does “good” really mean in this situation? I called it a “biopic (of sorts)” because it isn’t really a film about the life of Jackie Robinson. It’s about the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, and how Robinson fit into that squad, more than anything else.
To me, a true story (which it is, despite dramatizations and the “based on a true story” disclaimer at the beginning) is hard to assess as a film if I know the story. I wrote a few months back about Argo, which was based on a true story that I’d never heard. I was able to consume the finished product with a clean slate. But 42, on the other hand, is a story we all know. As such, I like how it picked out a very thin slice of Robinson’s life – albeit, the most well-known and most historically significant – and told that story, instead of squeezing his whole life into two hours.
It felt less like a single story and more like a collection of vignettes, I thought. For some reason, I didn’t like that at first. Looking back, however, as difficult as it would have been to cram a lifetime into a film, it would have been just as difficult to capture the everyday ins and outs of the approximately two and a half years the film covers. By showing the highlights – Robinson’s first meeting with Branch Rickey, his first trip to Dodgers camp, a number of incidents at games throughout both his Triple-A season in Montreal and his first season in Brooklyn – you get the gist of what the filmmakers are trying to say.
Both Chadwick Boseman (Robinson) and Harrison Ford (Rickey) will be talked about come award season, and they certainly deserve some recognition. I thought the film was well-acted, and I always appreciate an appearance by Christopher Meloni (as Dodgers manager Leo Durocher). More importantly, however, it was pretty accurate with the events and people it featured. Personally, as a fan of baseball, and history, inaccuracy would have been unforgivable.
I feel like I jumped all over the place there, but I really don’t know what to say about it. It was a movie that told me a story I already knew, but was still able to make it enjoyable to re-hear.
But more than anything, it took a number of unprovoked shots at Pittsburgh. And to that I say, “well done.”