For Your Consideration: ’42: The Jackie Robinson Story’
You won’t need to be a big fan of baseball to appreciate this film. 42 is about so much more than baseball. This biographical sports film about baseball legend Jackie Robinson will take you back to mid-forties America, when racism and segregation were commonplace. The film does use a lot of dramatic license, but if you know any American history, you understand why the director (Brian Helgeland) uses them to drive home the unfair treatment of African Americans during that time in our country.
Jackie Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman, is a college-educated, war veteran, with amazing athletic ability, playing in the Negro League. Early on we can see he is a leader and a stand out athlete. We can also see he is smart enough to know the world needs to change and harbors some justified anger from the “whites only” enforcement of that time. His performance on the field grabs the attention of Brooklyn Dodgers’ team executive, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), whose main focus is to keep baseball profitable. He believes only the “best” players should be on the field, regardless of their skin color. On opening day in 1947 the major league had 16 teams, 399 white players and 1 black player: Jackie Robinson.
The struggle was great for Robinson. Changing history is never easy and we suffer along with him during this painful time. It is an arduous journey to get to the majors, and on his first day walking into the Brooklyn Dodgers locker room, the majority of his teammates do little to welcome him, some even signing a petition to refuse to play on the field with him. He is led to his locker, but there are only coat hooks, just another reminder of the separation and unfairness. As the team travels, he is often put in a private home of a friend of the leagues, because they have already anticipated he won’t be able to stay in the hotels. Through it all Jackie Robinson lets us know he was “built to last” and he does more than last, he changes history.
Boseman gives a great performance and the small parts of the many ball players are very well cast. Ford is a bit over the top. In the first part of the film he speaks as if he has a mouth full of marbles, but either my ear gets used to it, or he mellows that out as the film progresses. This film is a well done, poignant, and an important look back at American history.
Rating- 4 stars