Halftime Leisure

A Case for the Classics: Field of Dreams

April 30, 2018

If you’re not crying almost immediately after Field of Dreams starts, then you’re not human. People always call it the best sports movie of all time, but it’s more than that. It’s one of the best narratives about humanity, family, taking chances, and following your heart. It’s simply one of the best movies of all time; it doesn’t need to fit into the category of sports, though the theme of baseball as America’s greatest and purest pastime makes the story what it is.

Field of Dreams stars Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, a Berkeley grad turned Iowa corn farmer who one day starts hearing a voice that tells him “If you build it, he will come.” At first, the message confuses and frustrates him, but then he figures it out: if he builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn farm, Shoeless Joe Jackson will come back to play baseball again.

And he does.

Field of Dreams is sort of a redemption film for the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who threw the World Series and consequently had half their team banned from baseball, including Jackson, who Kinsella defends as having nothing to do with the intentional loss of the game.

But the film isn’t just about baseball; it’s also about reconnecting with family. Ray talks of losing touch with his father, who he resents for forcing him to play baseball as a child. Ray hadn’t spoken to his father in years, and only went back home for his funeral. The weight of this all hangs over Ray, who wishes he had mended his relationship with the man who raised him. I’m not going to spoil the film, but what happens, in the end, is the most heartwarming, tear-jerking scene in all of cinematic history.

The movie is filled with magic, mythology, and mysticism. It’s got a mysterious voice that might be inside Ray’s head but is as real as anything he’s ever known. There are also the ghosts of baseball’s past, asking whether the field in the middle of the corn farm is heaven. And it might just be.

At one point, while trying to find old baseball player Archie “Moonlight” Graham, Ray travels through time without even realizing it, to happen upon the man who died 16 years prior. Graham only got to play one inning in the Majors before being sent down to the Minors and later becoming a successful doctor. The character is played by Burt Lancaster, who adds his own air of magic to the man who came so close to his dream of being a professional baseball player, but never quite reached it.

A final tear-jerking moment comes when Graham finally gets his first and only hit against a major league pitcher, but ends up walking off the “field of dreams” and turning back into his older self. Skirting the line of reality and fiction, of past and future, of life and death, Field of Dreams is one of the most thought-provoking and original American films of the 20th century.

I must reiterate, if you haven’t seen it, go watch it now. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and call your dad to tell him how much you love him. It’s simply a very good movie at first glance, but upon review, is incredibly complex; complete with a multiplicity of powerful narratives. Field of Dreams is an American classic for a reason: nothing brings people together quite like ghosts and baseball.

Claire Goldberg
is the Voice's former editoral board chair and halftime leisure editor. She "says a lot of funny things," according to Emma Francois.


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