Josh Waitzkin is just a typical American boy interested in baseball when one day he challenges his father at chess and wins. Showing unusual precocity at the outdoor matches at Washington Square in New York City, he quickly makes friends with a hustler named Vinnie who teaches him speed chess. Josh's parents hire a renowned chess coach, Bruce, who teaches Josh the usefulness of measured planning. Along the way Josh becomes tired of Bruce's system and chess in general and purposely throws a match, leaving the prospects of winning a national championship in serious jeopardy.Written by
Rick Gregory <email@example.com>
Joshua Waitzkin is depicted as the next Bobby Fischer in this movie and a genius chess prodigy. However, the portrayal is immensely exaggerated. Although he became an International Master at the age of sixteen (a title which most top players manage to attain much earlier, at the age of twelve to fourteen) he never managed to gain the top tier title of Grandmaster. Also, the peak Fide Elo Rating he reached was 2480 in 1998 at the age of twenty-two, which was then more than three hundred rating points lower than Garry Kasparov, who, at the time, topped the rankings. Last, but not least, there are currently (May 2017) 1,453 players all over the world rated higher than Joshua Waitzkin, and eighty-two in the U.S. See more »
In the final game, Josh and Jonathan are not writing their moves down. Keeping notation is not optional. Both players are required by the rules of chess to write down their moves. See more »
[about Bobby Fischer]
In the days before the event, the whole world wondered if he would show up. Plane after plane waited on the runway, while he napped, took walks, and ate sandwiches. Henry Kissinger called and asked him to go for his country's honor. Soon after arriving, he offended the Icelanders by calling their country inadequate because it had no bowling alleys. He complained about the TV cameras, about the lighting, about the table and chairs, and the contrast of the ...
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The original film ends with a title card stating that Josh still plays chess
along with several other activities, indicating that he has a well-rounded life. When the film was broadcast on NBC in 1996, this title card was updated: it now stated that Josh was working to become a grandmaster, and that he now considered Jack Kerouac, not Bobby Fischer, to be his primary influence.
_Searching for Bobby Fischer_ is possessive of a certain wonderful insight; it is a film that offers no heart-warming premeses and still manages to ease the soul.
The characters dwell in an utterly contemporary world; you will find no neighbors hauling in bags of money, chiming churchbells, perfect families, or million-dollar smiles anywhere in the film. At the same time, this world of this film exhibits a resilience against its crueler realities that most of the art of the twentieth century eschewed in favor of probing the darkness of existence. Yes, the main characters are prosperous, but the spectre of Fischer hangs over the world as a daunting warning of things to come. The mood of the piece, enhanced by the excellent cinematography, sets the film up to succeed wonderfully, and the actors and text deliver.
One of the things I like the most about this movie, superficially, is that it does not insult the game of chess as it depicts it. The depiction of the chess world is insightful and accurate, from the sharp division between granite-hewn chess scholars and colorful tactical wizards to the truly unequaled awe and gravity accompanying the notion of the Grandmaster. Perhaps these are things that can only truly be appreciated by those who have ventured to this world, but, thankfully, the film integrates these elements seamlessly into a universal story that is original and poignant in its detail and elegance.
Every actor in this film is spectacular, without exception. That is a bold statement, but it is completely justified. At no point do any of the actors miss a step; all the performances are smooth and appear to be utterly effortless. In their featured roles, Ben Kingsley and Lawrence Fishburne put in performances that match in art, craft, and intensity, if not in length, any of their more prominent film roles. Joan Allen is mind-bogglingly wonderful, considering how precise she has to be to fit such a massive character into such a truncated part in the script. This is Joe Mantena's very finest performance, and, of course, this movie contains child acting to match any film ever made. Even the bit parts are acted with intensity, depth, and elegance. A lot of this is easy to miss because, on the surface, the film is so even-handed, but repeated viewings continually bring to attention wonderful nuances of these performances.
Any summary or synopsis will fail to accurately relate the "message" of this film; as in any great work of art, the quickest, most efficient way to word the resolution of the film's ideas and conflicts is to watch the film. This is where _Searching for Bobby Fischer_ really shines. There is no way these characters could have ended up where they are from any other sequence of events than the one that took place; this is a wonderful example of how a plot is woven into a story rather than imposed on it. The flipside of this is that there is extremely little to be found in this film that can be applied universally without reservation, and yet it still manages to be convincing. There is something mysterious about this movie that rises toward the staggering mysteries of life, and repeated viewings are really the only means toward a full understanding of these ideas.
Undoubtedly, this is the best film made in the 1990s based on a true story (if you, like me, discount _Schindler's List_ from such assessments. It hardly seems fair to compare _Schindler's List_ to any other film due to its unique purpose.). If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. It may just change your life.
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