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42 Review: A Misguided Attempt At Creating A Saint

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rating: 2

Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was not only a great moment for sports but a great moment in American Civil Rights Movement. Baseball was the national pastime at a time when racial segregation was still a subject amongst half the population. And the fact that an African American was going to have a prominent role on a baseball team seemed ludicrous. But, €œWhite Man€™s Guilt€ is still prominent in America that is none more evident than in the latest Jackie Robinson biopic, €œ42€. The story of Jackie Robinson is a valiant one in which he had to go through struggles in order to feel accepted in a previously all white sport. But, he is no saint. However, Brian Helgeland, a white filmmaker, decides to treat his story as one of sainthood. This is disappointing from the guy who wrote about the sordid streets of Los Angeles in €œLA Confidential€. But, he somehow falls into every inspirational sports cliché in the book. This is the type of movie in which the musical cues dictate the emotions of the movie. The audience is telegraphed whether there will be a moment of suspense or a moment of inspiration depending on how the music swells. But, what is most aggravating about the film is the way Helgeland treats the racial issues of the film. Chad Bostwick as Jackie Robinson has no choice but to play him as the upstanding black hero that is necessary. He has become an idolized saint. And that is a problem with the entire movie. No character feels like real full dimensional character. They fall into archetypes. The 1940€™s Brooklyn Dodgers was a team filled with characters, affectionately given the name €œDem Bums€. And none of them was allowed to do anymore than be vilified for resenting Robinson or given the pat on the back for being a good guy. Race is not, excuse the pun, a black and white issue. There is more to it than what the film shows. But, the overall impression of race relations in the film is similar to that of €œThe Help€. It falls under, as I mentioned above, €œWhite Man€™s Guilt€. None is more evident than the fact that the opening five to ten minute does not feature Jackie Robinson at all, rather a group of white men gather around a table discussing whether or not to bring a African American to baseball. And this egregiously, condescending look at history undermines both actual events and the performance of Harrison Ford in what could be his first role not playing Harrison Ford in as Branch Rickey, the innovative GM of the Dodgers that decides to bring in Robinson. Look at the character of Wendell Smith played by Andre Holland. Wendell Smith was a real life, influential African American reporter. But, in this film serves as nothing more than a way for the audience to get exposition and be a plot convenience. For a movie that is about giving black characters a voice, it really does not know how to portray these people. Every moment is one of decency which seems so ham-fisted in. The repeated theme of racism, bad is irritating how passé it is. 16robinson-600 There is a way to portray this issue by also offering real life characters without tainting the heroic deeds of Jackie Robinson. Look at Billy Crystal€™s €œ61*€ about Roger Maris trying to break Babe Ruth€™s home run record. Although, not breaking the color barrier, he was breaking an established tradition and was vilified for it. This film focuses on the team while also focusing on the feat and how hard it was. Each supporting character had a purpose and backstory making the connection more pertinent. Or look at €œSoul of the Game€ about three Negro League ballplayers trying to break into the Majors. This allowed these players to be more than a saint. Baseball and history seems to deem it necessary to portray Jackie Robinson as a saint and a superman. But, Jackie Robinson€™s true story will no doubt be more resonant with today€™s kids if it was portrayed more three dimensionally. No person will learn more about his life than they already know from this movie other than the reinforcement that racism means bad. Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 08.31.21 42 is out now in US cinemas.
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A film lover and college student who dreams of one day doing this professionally. http://haostersblog.tumblr.com/