“We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”
Movies like Field of Dreams are manipulative. But to butcher Steve Erickson’s Zeroville, all movies are manipulative; some just do a better job of hiding it. I don’t think Field of Dreams does a great job of hiding how manipulative it is. It’s drastically melodramatic, and its entire story is guided by a voice of God with the most reactionary protagonist you could possibly write. That being said, the movie is an 80s staple on all accounts. For the type of movie it’s trying to be, it’s one of the best, with all the limitations that come along with that.
Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) lives a simple life in rural America, when one day he hears a voice from above: “Build it and he will come.” Ray then sees a vision of a baseball field in his own backyard. Compelled to break the cycle of his life and finally do something “that doesn’t make any sense,” he builds the baseball field. When major league players from years past start appearing as spirits to play ball on his field, he’s led on a journey to discover the true purpose of the field he created.
Field of Dreams doesn’t take a lot of risks, but it’s got the formula down with some cool plot points along the way. James Earl Jones brings a fun performance as Terence Mann, a visionary novelist turned cynic who accompanies Ray on the latter half of his journey, expanding on the themes of the film and serving as one of several foils on the concept of regrets and finding fulfillment. The other major foil is Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster), a retired ball player who played only one inning in the major leagues before giving up his dreams. This character is much weaker in comparison to Mann, but he provides fine filler towards the end of the film with a fitting emotional payoff.
The final scene of the movie is probably the most memorable, when a half dozen miracles heap themselves onto Ray’s baseball field in a single stretch of twenty minutes, each more dramatic than the last. These kind of scenes can leave a bad taste in my mouth. The lack of subtlety shouldn’t be unexpected, but it still surprises me every time. This is a movie you shouldn’t think too much about if you want to enjoy it. Again, with that being said, it fits the bill nicely with some competent storytelling to wrap up any mysteries the film had spun up.
This is an understandably popular and beloved movie, although I don’t hear a lot of people talking about it these days. It’s not something I’ll see myself returning to, but if I did, I’d probably feel the same way I do now: that I have no problem with it. It’s charming in its 80s way, and you really couldn’t ask for more from a movie with a name like Field of Dreams.
Films Left to Watch: 862