While we here at VEB await for the start of the baseball season, whether that wait be a month or a full year, we are going to periodically watch classic baseball movies. The purpose of VEB Movie Club is quite simply for us writers to watch classic movies we missed and see what exactly we have missed. Sometimes, we’ll watch a movie we haven’t watched since we were a child. As a counterpoint, we will also feature a writer who has seen the movie and remembers it well.
Scooter: This might be a surprising revelation but in all my years I have yet to see Field of Dreams in its entirety. I am not entirely sure why; it said to be a delightful baseball movie and I am a fan of both being delighted and baseball. With that out of the way, I am excited to watch it for VEB Movie Club!
What I do know about the movie is that it stars Kevin Costner as the... farmer(?) that turns his Iowa cornfield(?) into the titular Field of Dreams. See, the title is kind of clever because it was a field, but then it becomes a baseball field. Costner’s portrayal appears to have been well-received, which is not surprising as he is one of my mom’s favorite actors. James Earl Jones is also involved, but I have no idea what role he plays.
Josey has actually seen the movie before, so I will let her discuss what she is looking forward to!
Josey: Field of Dreams is considered by many to be one of the best baseball movies, and it is one of my favorites for sure. While I enjoy the baseball aspect of it, I really like the surrounding plot as well. I don’t want to spoil the movie for Scooter or others who have not seen it. I will say that it is moving to see Ray (Kevin Costner) make a bold decision that could turn his world completely upside down and have the support of his wife along the way. The decision he made ended up being so much bigger than he expected, and it changed his life forever.
Scooter: “The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time”. The famous “people will come” monologue given by James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann just hits all the right notes, in large part due to Jones’s dulcet delivery. This movie was released in 1988, but now, with the future of baseball uncertain, it’s message seems to ring just a true as it did over 30 years ago. As Ray explains to Shoeless Joe Jackson why there are lights, Jackson, played by Ray Liotta, just shakes his head and grumbles “Owners.” Some things never change, eh?
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. I feel movies have a tendency to add unnecessary conflict to increase the stakes, and while this movie flirted with that trope somewhat with the farm being at risk of forclosure (as a Midwest farmer’s daughter seeing that corn get drilled over made my stomach drop — the farm profit margins are just not very high and yes, that little bit of land could be that costly to the bottom line!), I was pleasantly surprised they didn’t turn to the much overdone “put upon wife” trope. Ray’s wife, Annie, played by Amy Madigan, maintained a healthy amount of skepticism, but was mostly supportive, even while facing down the barrel of bankruptcy. I am notoriously pretty good at guessing how movies are going to go, so I always appreciate when writers are able to subvert my expectations.
That being said, Field of Dreams is by no means subversive (though there is a great little bit with Annie almost getting into a fight at the PTA meeting over an attempted book ban). It doesn’t make you think all too hard and it pretty much spells out the characters’ motivations for the audience: Ray’s fear of becoming his father, Ray’s guilt over his strained relationship with his father, Terrence’s fatigue and distrust with the world. Sometimes though, that is all you want from a movie. It was sweet and it made me feel hopeful. Right now in baseball it is easy to lose hope, but as Terrence Mann said baseball has marked the time.
Josey: Well said, Scooter. Field of Dreams is about how you can always count on baseball to be there when the times are tough. (Although that’s not the case right now.) But more specifically, the movie is about second chances and not being afraid to follow what your heart says you should do — even if what you do is completely illogical to everyone else.
Ray and his family are just barely getting by financially, and the Iowa farmer needs a great crop year to keep things in the black. Ray, who has a lifelong connection to baseball bridging back to his childhood days, hears a voice coming from his cornfield. “If you build it, he will come,” the voice whispers.
So, Ray mows down his corn and builds a baseball field, and Shoeless Joe Jackson is soon in his backyard. After hearing another voice, Ray travels across the country, risking his farm, to find author Terrance Mann, and the two set off on another trip to find Moonlight Graham, a former ballplayer and doctor who got to play in only one game. After returning back to his Iowa farm towards the end of the movie, many past ballplayers are taking in his field, and with pressure to sell his farm mounting, Ray and his family opt to keep his farm and keep the field. At the end of the movie, Ray is able to reconnect with his father, and the two have a catch on Ray’s field that makes everything worth it.