42 does precisely what it sets out to do: tell the story of a great baseball player who happened to be black and who had to become a great man in order to live his dream and open the door for others to do the same. It’s well-crafted, well-acted, and altogether a very enjoyable movie.
If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it this weekend.
Here’s a trailer:
Released April 12, 2013
Written by Brian Helgeland
Directed by Brian Helgeland
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Melonie, Alan Tudyk, T.R. Knight, John C. McGinley, and Lucas Black.
* * * * *
Branch Rickey (Ford) is the boss of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he knows that change is coming. He wants to embrace that change and force his sport to do the same. He is sure it’s time to integrate baseball, bring Black players onto the field, and start providing same and equal resources to fans.
So he’s looking for an exceptional Black baseball player who is will to- ahem- step up to the plate. His team’s manager/coach, Leo Durocher (Melonie), is leary but will follow orders and he is soon able to buy into the vision.
Jackie Robinson (Boseman) is an exceptional baseball player who is Black. He can run, hit, throw– and he’s got fire and vim. Branch recruits him, to many people’s ire and shock. And Robinson plays all right, but he’s under a lot of pressure. At the same time, he’s romancing a smart, driven woman named Rachel (Beharie) who, after some soul-searching, throws in with Robinson’s journey. The interaction between these two is very, very good.
Now Robinson needs to learn to cope with the constant vile stuff people are saying, awful fans who want him gone, unsupportive teammates, and still play some good ball. And it turns out that playing ball really can bring people together.
The performances are the biggest highlight of 42. This movie moves slowly, taking its time to savor the outstandingly recreated time and atmosphere of this racially-tense era. It savors the characters too, giving Branch opportunities to show us why he is so insistent on forcing change. It lets us see Leo, the Dodgers’ manager, steadily come to the conclusion that the institutionalized racism he’s surrounded by is patently immoral.
And it lets us watch the journey, certainly somewhat fictionalized and dramatized, that Robinson has to go on from a simple desire to just play baseball to the certainty that he has a role to play and it will take all he has to break through the walls around him. Boseman is, in a word, perfect.
Great dialogue, great acting, excellent writing, an understated score, and just very well crafted emotional climaxes make 42 a very enjoyable movie experience. It’s not really a sports movie, guys, it’s more of a person movie. And it’s far and away a better movie than Lincoln.
Content warnings: Some salty language- mostly racial epithets, some mild violence.
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5