For many baseball fans, opening day has come and gone; but the excitement for the 2013 season still hangs in the air. It’s a fresh start for each team, no matter how poorly their last season ended. Every player gets a chance to show their fans what they’re made of. And, with Monday being Major League Baseball’s “Jackie Robinson” Day, it’s no wonder, then, the new Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, opens nationwide this week. The man who pushed backed against racism and segregation, was the first African American to play in the majors and became Rookie of the Year in 1947 gave America one of its most inspiring stories.
The story isn’t just about an American conquering strife to topple barriers; this film is also a passion project for Writer/Director, Brian Helgeland and Producer, Thomas Tull. They have struggled to make this film for the past few years. Helgeland is a well-known and accomplished screenwriter — you may recognize his work — he’s written L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, Man on Fire and 2010’s Robin Hood. His previous directing gigs include A Knight’s Tale and The Omen – neither were popular films – but 42 is a project he’s envisioned for a long time, and the film puts a modern and stylistic spin onto a familiar story.
Critics are praising the small, unfamiliar details 42 provides, and they are also recognizing the cast’s stellar performances. The movie’s buzz is focused on the star, Chadwick Boseman; a relatively unknown TV actor who has shone in this new role. Boseman isn’t the first to play the Jackie Robinson: David Alan Grier, Blair Underwood and even Robinson himself stared in the role, but Boseman brings a dual sense of charm and tenacity to the character that hasn’t seen before. Harrison Ford is receiving praise for his uncharacteristically farcical portrayal of Brooklyn Dodgers Executive and mastermind of the “noble experiment,” Branch Rickey who was well-known as a dramatic and colorful character as well as a father figure to Robinson. Credit and praise also goes to: Christopher Meloni for his frantic portrayal of Dodgers Manager, Leo Durocher; Lucas Black and Hamish Linklater as teammates Pee Wee Reese and Ralph Branca; and John C. McGinley as the legendary announcer Red Barber.
Even though most Americans know Robison’s story, it just hasn’t been told in a while. It’s easy to become complacent in a society filled with comforts, but 42 reminds us that sometimes we need to strive for something larger, no matter how difficult. 42 opens today; find showtimes and tickets to a theater near you.