Sunday, February 5, 2012

100 Movies - No. 38: Field of Dreams

38. Field of Dreams (1989)
Drama, Family, Fantasy, 107 minutes
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta

Here's a movie that feels like vintage Spielberg. It was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Score, but failed to win. It's more of a fantasy than a drama and the viewer is required to ignore logic and any expectation of how the real world works. If you can do that, there's a chance you might end up loving Field of Dreams.

The story focuses on Ray Kinsella (Costner) who runs a farm in Iowa. One day, he hears a voice whispering to him out in the cornfield. It says, "If you build it, he will come." That would be both worrying and annoying, I imagine. We aren't told what he has to build or who will come, but he eventually has a "vision" of a baseball field among the corn.

Put yourself in that situation. Would you think you were losing your mind? Dare you tell anybody? Would you consider acting on it, even for a moment? Well, Ray tells his wife Annie (Amy Madigan) and she believes him. You would have to have an incredibly honest relationship to inspire that level of trust.

Ray destroys part of his crop, builds the field, and somebody does come. It turns out to be Shoeless Joe Jackson (Liotta). That's amazing enough, but the voice doesn't stop. It wants something more from Ray. I won't reveal anything else about the plot as it's better to experience it for yourself.

Costner was a huge star in the 80s and 90s and plays Ray very effectively. My favorite character is Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones, and he should have been nominated for his performance. The whole cast works well and the story plays out like a wild fantasy adventure. I always find myself engrossed in the story, anxious to see what happens next, although I have watched the movie many times.

Field of Dreams is nonsense, but it's heartwarming, feel-good nonsense that I will never tire of seeing.

If you like Field of Dreams:

I mentioned that Field of Dreams feels like a Spielberg movie. The one which springs immediately to mind is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We see both main characters compelled to go on a journey and they each meet someone with a similar compulsion. We go on that journey with them and have the same hopes and desires.

A more recent example of a similar movie is Midnight in Paris. It also has a strong fantasy element and the main character meets his heroes from the past.

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  1. Spot on - Field of Dreams is nonsense, you're absolutely right but what great nonsense it is. I always think of it as a baseball movie everyone loves but really it isn't about baseball. There's just this whimsical feelgood joy about it and it is so re-watchable.

  2. Yes. Some things are hard to explain. I can see flaws, weaknesses and plot holes in a lot of movies, but still love them despite that. I think Field of Dreams works because they treat the subject so seriously and it is well-acted. The opportunity to speak to a departed loved one is a powerful theme. It's hard not to relate to that and be moved by it.