It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I have a confession to make…last night I watched FIELD OF DREAMS, and I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s one of those movies that a staggering amount of people seem to have a deep-rooted affection for, that they will proudly shout from the rooftops that they love, that’s it’s apparently OK for guys to cry at. But now I’ve finally seen it, I can safely say it had absolutely zero affect on me.
Maybe it’s because I’m not American, in fact I’m British. I’ve never watched a game of baseball in my life, it’s not a game that is part of my culture, and I’m pretty apathetic to sport in general. I didn’t object particularly to the highly romantic view of American society and culture on show, nor to the emotionally blackmailing drive behind many of the plot contrivances (though both of these elements could be annoying at times). What I objected to most was how dull the thing was. The performances were mostly boring and unmemorable, and though Amy Madigan is entertaining, and Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster bring pathos to their roles, that’s not enough to save the film as a whole. The pacing of the plot requires a lot of trust on the part of the viewer, with revelations not so much drip-fed as all dumped on us at once in the last fifteen minutes. The film also looks very conventional, always competently framed and put together by director Phil Alden Robinson, and the Iowa scenery admittedly looks pretty, but it never makes you go “wow” and very few individual shots are memorable.
I know the film is essentially a fantasy, but I couldn’t suspend by disbelief and get behind the idea that Costner’s Ray Kinsella gives up his family farm to build a field for long-dead ball players, and everyone’s OK with that. His wife falters at first, but comes around conveniently quickly. Can we not be honest and just say what a selfish jerk he’s being? The only character who acknowledges this is Timothy Busfield’s Mark, Ray’s brother-in-law, and we’re meant to see him as an antagonist for quite rightly warning that Ray is putting his family in very real danger because of an apparent delusion. But I know I’m trying to apply cold logic to unbridled fantasy here.
I’m not completely heartless – the final scene, the entire reason for seeing the film, is lovely. It almost makes sitting through the previous 100-or-so minutes worthwhile, and it certainly elevates what has come before. Again, though, for me, it’s not enough.
As I’ve previously stated on the blog, I like some weird films. I sometimes disagree with critics, and other times I disagree with other audience members. Sometimes you just love something and can’t quite explain why, and if Field of Dreams just has a direct line to your heart, then good for you. But I didn’t shed a tear once my first time watching it, in fact I rarely felt anything beyond boredom. It just wasn’t for me. SSP