Monday, June 27, 2011

REVIEW: Field of Dreams (1989)

Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan

"This is my most special place in the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again."
-Moonlight Graham

Kevin Costner is a farmer who hates farming, but gets a voice in his head that tells him some rather cryptic lines of almost prophetic nature that lead him to believe that he should turn his corn field into a giant baseball diamond so that the ghosts of Ray Liotta and a host of other old baseball stars all come back and re-live their dreams. Crazy enough for you yet?

Field of Dreams is fluff. It’s very enjoyable, creative fluff, however sentimental and sappy it might be. I really found myself drawn into its creative energy and the youthful, biting zeal at which it tore into its subject matter. Basically the story is that Costner keeps getting these voices in his head that tell him things he needs to do, although they’re all delivered in very cryptic manners and seemingly have nothing to do with each other. What’s the big picture? How will everything fit together? These are questions you will invariably have during a first viewing, and the fact that the film makes you ask them is one of its strong points. There is intrigue and mystery around every corner, of a very unique nature. There has never been a movie plot quite like this before. The freshness makes it all the more exciting.

Costner as the lead does a fairly good job, and he’s plenty likable and has a fair amount of depth and realism to his character, like the plot thread involving his father. There is one moment where he finally gets angry at the pre-set plan for everything going on, and I found that refreshing, as it showed his humanity quite nakedly. But like a lot of movies, the best characters are the side characters who add a lot more color and spunk to the whole thing. Ray Liotta does a good job as Shoeless Joe Jackson, the, ahem, spiritually inclined 1920s baseball legend back from his grave to play again, but he isn’t given as much screen time as I would have liked. Really my favorite characters here are James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann and Amy Madigan as Costner’s wife Annie, both of whom just really went at their performances with huge amounts of awesome energy.

The plot at first is fast paced and exciting. The whole first half of the movie is pretty much a big adventure as we see Costner build the baseball field and then embark on a statewide journey to find connected people who the voices tell him to find. There’s a real sense of adventure and boldness here that I really like. It just feels so free-spirited and fun, and that’s one thing in a movie I will never tire of. The scenes where he and James Earl Jones first meet are just pure cinematic ecstasy, as the two have excellent screen chemistry and play off each other masterfully. And then the scenes in Michigan with the old doctor character are also very well done, although I thought they could have been longer.

And that’s one of my complaints with the end, as it just felt a bit too rushed at times, like they had another 20 minutes of film they could have done if they had time, but just came up short in that area. The end is pretty decent, and contains some good scenes, but overall I felt a bit short-changed. They definitely could have done a little more to tie up the enthusiastic threads they had already established.

So overall Field of Dreams was good. It’s a fun, lighthearted flick for everyone who needs a little light in their life, shining through the darkness. Idealistic, creative and addictive.