Welcome to the first HIP Life review ever!
42, the recent biopic chronicling Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough of the color line in baseball, might appear treacly and safe at first glance. In fact, the movie is very bold in terms of theme, if not in terms of execution. Director Brian Helgeland repeatedly presents us with racism and a myriad of reactions to it, in a very straightforward manner. There are no flourishes of cinematography and little in the way of musical cues to heighten the mood, just cameras pointed at actors doing some horrible and heroic things. As a result, the film becomes very personal; every racial epithet is a punch to the gut, and every moment that someone overcomes bigotry is cheer worthy.
Of course, any dramatic film would fail if it merely focused on racism. It needs something to glue it all together, and that something is character. Thankfully, 42 has character to spare. Harrison Ford gives a stellar turn as Branch Rickey, the baseball executive who recruits Jackie Robinson. Robinson is played wonderfully by newcomer Chadwick Boseman, not as a mythic figure, but as a real man who was nonetheless worthy of great admiration. Rickey and Robinson’s motivation to be decent human beings who live up to their potential drives the story, and draws the audience into the story. Performances are strong across the board, bringing the 1940s to life.
42 isn’t so much about baseball itself (though plenty of ball playing appears), as it is about the culture of baseball in the ‘40s. It will make you think about racism then, racism now, and allow you to draw your own conclusions about where it comes from and why some people act the way they do. Best of all, you will be riveted the entire time.
About the Critic:
Eric lives in Florence, SC with his lovely wife and three cats. Together, they watch film on a daily basis, and have strong opinions about said films (yes, even the cats). Sometimes, those opinions make it into written form.