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|Index||171 reviews in total|
A wonderful, magical fairy tale, and morality play. This is the type of
movie that as a new father, I cannot wait until my son is old enough to
watch this with me.
I know much has been made about Redford being too old to play Roy Hobbs. But much of the story asks you to believe in incredible things, so to me, this is a minor issue.
Everything about this movie is first rate. The cast which includes Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley and a pair of terrific performances turned in by Robert Duval and Darren McGavin.
It is easy to see that all of the actors trust the material and believe in their characters.
Barry Levinson tells the story in a straight forward style, he doesn't try to build any false suspense or surprise twists. When you watch this movie you know exactly what is going to happen long before it does, but you don't care, because it unfolds intelligently and without pretense.
My two favorite components of this movie are the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel and the beautiful, moving score composed by Randy Newman. I first enjoyed Mr. Deschanel's work on "Being There", and felt Mr. Newman's score for "Ragtime" was the best score of 1981.
"The Natural" is so much more than a baseball movie. It is a story about faith, good and evil, right and wrong, fathers and sons. It is about all that is good in baseball and in life.
10 out of 10
This is THE classic sports-Walter Mitty-fantasy movie, with an ending
that may seem corny to cynical critics or those who prefer the book,
but was perfect for me and a lot of other people.
Granted, I am a little biased in my review since the movie was made in the area in which grew up. Having made many trips to the ballpark in which the movie was filmed, and to the old-fashioned soda shoppe where Robert Redford and Glenn Close re-unite, this movie was special to all of us in Western New York. It always a kick, too, (and a bit odd) to watch the final scene since the opposing pitcher is a personal friend.
I think I would have loved this movie regardless of the "home-field advantage." It's an interesting, involving story that has you really rooting for Redford's character. To have actors like Close, Robert Duvall, Richard Farnsworth, Kim Basinger, Wilfred Brimley, Darren McGavin, Barabara Hershey, Robert Prosky, Joe Don Baker and others in the "lineup" doesn't hurt, either!
The cinematography is beautiful, too. That was something I never really appreciated until after several viewings. There are some wonderfully subdued brown and golden hues in here. This is very pretty motion picture.
All the characters - the good and the bad, and there are plenty of both - are fascinating. It's also nice to see an actor in a baseball film that actually knows how to throw, hit and field a baseball. This is a great, old-fashioned storytelling.
Whenever "The Natural" is on TV, I stop what I'm doing and watch it. I don't know why, exactly. I have been a baseball fan since I was a little kid and love the tradition. There is no other sport that has as much history. It's because one can isolate moments in time. Situations develop. Every announcer says things like, "Bottom of the third, men on first and third, Turley on the mound, Simpson is up, he's two for four today. The wind is blowing out to right field, etc." We can make words visual. In this wonderful movie, a man wants a piece of that tradition. He makes a horrible mistake along the way to the big leagues, and now is given one last chance. This is mythical. This is not realistic. To criticize it on the basis of its credibility is unfair. Even to compare it to the book is unfair. They are totally different. What one does with a camera should not be compared to the printed page. Malamud did his thing and now Barry Levinson is doing his. The cinematography is without peer. It is magical all the way through. The lighting as Glenn Close stands up in the stands is mesmerizing. This is more Greek myth than baseball story, but it is a baseball story, with the Ruth like gods and the day-to-day players. Roy Hobbs is like all of us in some ways and we love him for his endurance, patience, and drive. Redford brings him to life with that rugged face moving away from lost youth. It's a fine film.
What give this movie its power? Is it baseball? Is it the acting? No, it is deeply, powerfully moral. The morality of the movie decried and abused even way back in 1984 is why it resonates. The ending is meant to be supernatural; Levinson keeps Malumad's satanic imagery and transmutes it into the opposite. The lightning bolt that heralds Hobbs, a nickname for the Devil, by the way, into much more than a baseball player. His goodness is evinced in small ways, his befriending of all children, like Bobby, whose bat saves the team. The goodness he did comes back to him: what a great touch by the master director Levinson. He protects and sides with Pop and Red against the pure evil of the Judge. Notice he likes to live in the dark. He detests the light. Look, I did not write this; the imagery is undeniable. The morality in this movie could not be more dichotomous. Levinson that took a very dark, depressing book about a ballplayer who made a deal with the Devil to be famous; then he was destroyed at the end. The second lightning bolt was in the book; it showed the end of Hobbs.
Levinson and Redford wanted a completely different movie. Redford always likes damaged heroes who come back from great adversity to triumph. He always makes deeply moral films. THE RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT is quintessential Robert Redford. Here, Hobbs becomes the moral center of the team and a battle ensues for his soul with Iris representing goodness, family and God and Memo representing evil, corruption and selfishness. When Iris stands, watch for the sunlight behind her, it shines through her upon him and he hits the baseball shattering the clock and ending his slump Memo began. His stomach blows apart after Memo, urged on, puts that food in his mouth. One always gets the impression she was trying to kill him as she almost does when she tries to shoot him in the Judge's office when he throws the bribe back at him.
Baseball is the surface story if this were all there was it would be as brainless and arid as MAJOR LEAGUE or BULL DURHAM. What gives the movie its power is the moral conflict that underlies the surface; Hobb's soul is in play. The suffering he undergoes, the tragedy that befalls him, his struggle into the Light this is why it is a masterpiece. It is the struggle of all of us, one and all. The acting and the cast are without compare. Close was always an excellent actress, watch PARADISE ROAD, also Duvall, Prosky and Redford are above reproach. Wilford Brimley steals every scene he is in; but all the credit belongs to Barry Levinson who transformed a dark, depressing baseball novel into a morality piece without equal. The ending, which Siskel and Ebert mocked, is the highlight of the entire movie. For two and a half hours we have endured Hobbs struggle; the ending was never intended to be empirical, HELLO?, this is a supernatural film good versus evil. Like the clock, the light comes showering down upon him; I love the shot of the sparks flying in front of Memo and the Judge.
As you listen and watch him take that last stroll across the bases with the sparks transfiguring him with almost a nimbus ask yourself which would you like your children to emulate Roy Hobbs or SIN CITY? Good comes with a great price; it almost kills Hobbs but it is always the right choice, always.
I really enjoyed watching this movie. It seems like the very embodiment of the Hollywood cliche - a noble hero overcoming difficulty to achieve his dream...but somehow, The Natural manages to pull it off in a very un-glamorized way. Take the hero - he's 35 years old! It just seems refreshing not to always have a dashing young fellow of twenty as the main character. And then - an ulcerated stomach? What kind of an obstacle is that? Not a Hollywood one, I'll tell you that. This hero is actually believable - and Robert Redford plays him handsomely. He makes Roy Hobbs a real person, and a gentleman. I recommend The Natural for any Robert Redford fan, baseball fan - and anyone who just wants to see a neat, entertaining movie with a main character you can really root for.
As a writer, I am often compelled to read the books on which my
favorite movies are based. Since its original release, I have loved The
Natural as one of my favorite movies of all time, but it was only
recently that I read Bernard Malamud's novel on which the movie was
based. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was.
Malamud was a great writer, and was best known for winning a Pulitzer and the National Book award for The Fixer. His award winning work usually dealt with themes closer to his own heart, and Malamud didn't seem to "get" baseball in this book. Either that, or he had some axe to grind about baseball, and wanted us to hate it and all the people involved in it.
The Natural was Malamud's first novel and, as such, it suffers from shallow, simplistic characters, a muddy, at times almost unintelligible plot, and poorly attenuated subplots that almost seem like afterthoughts or clumsy devices slathered on to shore up weak story objectives. He does, however, have a historical understanding of baseball, and most of the events related to baseball in this story are composites of everything from the Black Sox to Babe Ruth to Christie Matheson and a string of other legends.
The main character, Roy Hobbs, is almost certainly based on the real life character Eddie Waitkus, and Malamud does little to imbue him with likable traits that would deepen him as a literary character. He even throws in a little Joe Jackson to compromise the character even further. The fact that he is called "Roy" is an obvious allusion to Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century opus "Le Morte D'Arthur." (Recall that "roi" is French for "king.") Why Malamud chose this story as a model is a mystery, since although he goes to great lengths to reinforce the Aurthurian connection (the baseball team is called the "Knights", the bat, "Wonderboy" is obviously "Excalibur"), he creates little of the Arthurian heroism in Roy Hobbes, or, for that matter, the sport of baseball as an allegory for the jousting of Chivalric heroes.
The character of The Whammer, played in the movie beautifully, if all too briefly, by Joe Don Baker, is more Ruth than Ruth, but he's gone in a flash, leaving yet another heroic void in the original story. And the women in The Natural are shallow, conniving and cheap and I have never been able to understand Malamud's literary allusions with regard to Morgan LeFave and Guinnevere, the women in Arthur's life. The Bad Guys in the book are ALL Bad, everyone else is mostly neutral, and there isn't any real good, or anything uplifting or affirming or positive in the whole thing.
Thank god for the movie. Barry Levinson's direction is gilded and glowing, and the whole film has a luminous aura that seems magical and enchanted and, compared to the wooden novel from which it came, a satisfying recast of the Arthurian legend. The screenplay was done by Roger Towne, who recently gave us The Recruit, and the changes he made to the story make all the difference in the world; less literary, perhaps, but more beautiful and elegant and not nearly so cynical and pessimistic. Compared to the Levinson/Johnson magic, the novel is almost amateurish, and recalls Ayn Rand's facile characters and stories, didactic and pedantic, and almost completely obscuring the Arthurian magic that Levinson coaxes from the story.
Once, when I had the chance to mention personally to Mark Johnson how beautiful The Natural was, he responded with a sincere modesty that fit the innocent tone of the movie, and he even gave me a keepsake from the film that I have to this day as a reminder of just how amazing an achievement this movie was, coming from so flawed a novel.
This was the first movie in which I loved Redford. He was older and deeper as an actor, and this was the beginning of his real golden age. Glenn Close was delightfully virginal and beautiful as a character almost completely created by the screenwriter, not the novelist. Kim Basinger is gorgeous and dangerous as the femme fatal, a portrayal that she would echo in her Oscar winning turn in L.A. Confidential.
Randy Newman's brilliant score was recycled a dozen times in subsequent movies, but none captured the beauty and nostalgia of The Natural. There are only a handful of movies so magnificently driven by their score, and The Natural remains Newman's best and most satisfying work.
In short, this is the best baseball movie ever. Whereas Malamud wanted to show baseball as jaundiced and commercial, Towne's screenplay shows us the baseball we loved as kids, and more. Malamud's dark and wholly unsatisfying ending is also rewritten, and if you find the final scene a little sweet, ask yourself if you really wanted to see the dismal finale that Malamud supplied.
That's how I personally summed up this movie when I first saw it. And
what better place to couch a fairy tale than in a milieu with real
legends like Ruth and DiMaggio and Mantle ... or fabulous ones like
"The Whammer" and Roy Hobbs. The story of a man playing the game they
way it SHOULD be played, wishing while injured that his father could
have seen him, and coming through in the clutch for his father, his
lady, and his son. Beautifully shot by Caleb Deschanel, this isn't just
a movie, this is ARTWORK.
And who could forget the soundtrack written by Randy Newman, which has found its way into virtually every sports show on the tube at one time or another. Without a doubt, his best handiwork.
One of my all time favorites. Everything about this movie appears
authentic. From the time period, to the baseball scenes. These guys
really look like a baseball team.
Redford is low-key and stoic, but he hits just the right note for the character. Everybody else, especially Robert Duvall and Wilford Brimley, are fantastic.
A touching story, without being hokey. You get the feeling you are watching something mystical and magical along with all the characters in the movie, and it is played with just the right note.
Thrilling and inspiring. A well-made, well-acted film.
I can't ever forget the first time(s) I saw The Natural. I was a member of the Directors Guild of America and there was a screening at the DGA. I love screenings of films about which I know nothing! And at the time I hadn't read the novel, really didn't know anything about it. I knew Barry Levinson and liked his work, and Randy Newman was, of course, a god. I just wasn't ready for it! Tears were streaming down my face from the beginning. The music would play and the waterworks would commence! It felt organic, not intellectual. It just "was". The only other film where I had that experience was, you guessed it, "Field of Dreams", another screening. When he asked his Dad if they could play a little catch, I lost it. The people I was with got up and slowly moved to other seats. But back to the Natch. I love it when a film subsumes reality, and every time I hear the theme at a "real" ball game, I smile. From time to time I'll put on the DVD to watch a scene, and I invariably end up watching the whole thing! If you haven't seen this film, you simply must!
My son and I have watched this movie twice together. I can't think of any other movie we have watched twice--together. I'm 60 and my son is 26. There is the element of magic, of fairy-tale, of other-worldliness; there is the element of the naturalness, the character of Robert Redford; there is the element of baseball, the great sport-love of millions of boys in North America--and me back in the 1950s when I was growing up and dreamed of going to the majors; there's a touch of the sexual with Kim Basinger and Barbara Hershey----one could go on listing the pluses that this movie brings to the viewers. But I think what makes the movie in the end is the magic of Roy Hobbs as he hits a baseball further and harder than anyone ever has or(probably) ever will. Hobbs is the quintessence of the baseball hero and for sports lovers that's their religion. Hobbs is like Jesus come down to earth in the form of a baseball player, yet with sins of omission and commission. So, he's human and a superhero all at once.
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