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Field of Dreams Movie Review

ray shoeless kinsella joe

1988 – Phil Alden Robinson –

“Are you a ghost?” asks Karen Kinsella (Gaby Hoffmann) of Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). “Do I look like a ghost?” replies Jackson. Karen says, “Ya look real to me.” “Well then, I must be real.” concludes Shoeless Joe.

As you watch the curious corn farmer Ray (Kevin Costner) plow under his crops, you have to agree with the onlookers—he must be crazy. But then, they never heard the Voice—"If you build it, he will come"—as farmer Ray did. And his conviction to build a baseball field costs him more than he could ever know. He loses friends, in-laws, and comes close to losing his wife and the farm. But his daughter, who never heard the Voice, never once loses faith in what her Dad is doing. Finally the field is finished, and at first … nothing happens. Probably even Ray begins to doubt what he has done. Then, one evening, just about dark, “Daddy, there's a man out on your lawn.” Ray goes out, turns on the lights, and discovers to his bewilderment that he has Shoeless Joe Jackson standing in left field as though he just woke up and can't believe where he is. Soon, long-departed ballplayers are loosening up with a little pepper in the cornfield.

Based on W.P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe, Field of Dreams generally evokes one of two feelings. Some dislike the film because it is too Disneyesque and unrealistic: how could some farmer's wife be so blindly supportive as to smile serenely while her husband destroys part of their living? And why would a sensible farmer plow over his cornfield? Others love this film because they are eager to believe in something unseen and unexperienced, something that transcends today and gives meaning to the drudgery of what we do to exist.

In many ways, this longing to believe makes Field of Dreams a love story. In the deeper sense of its family structure, the movie engineers a mythic meeting between father and son. (Ray has unresolved issues with his late dad). This moment of reconciliation, characterized by a tenderness and understanding that surpasses logic, grows beautifully out of the film's non-realistic style and becomes, for those who believe, one of movie history's most memorable moments. Part of the film's great appeal is how it moves the viewer to the brink of longing to right an old wrong, to heal a broken relationship, or simply to be able to talk with someone you love—and can't.

Field of Dreams is also an epic quest that begins with the Voice and continues with Ray destroying his livelihood, alienating many of those around him, and doing strange things like kidnapping authors and chasing down long-dead doctors. It climaxes with Shoeless Joe looking at Ray after playing ball all day and saying, “If you build it, [turning toward the plate] he will come.” Ray looks at the catcher, puts down his mask, and realizes, “It's my father.”

Cast: Kevin Costner (Ray Kinsella), Amy Madigan (Annie Kinsella), Gaby Hoffman (Karen Kinsella), Ray Liotta (Shoeless Joe Jackson), Timothy Busfield (Mark), James Earl Jones (Terence Mann), Burt Lancaster (Dr. Archibald Graham), Frank Whaley (Archie “Moonlight” Graham), Dwier Brown (John Kinsella), Anne Seymour (Chisolm Newspaper Publisher), C. George Biasi (First Man in Bar), Howard Sherf (Second Man in Bar), Joseph R. Ryan (Third Man in Bar) Screenwriter: Phil Alden Robinson Cinematographer: John Lindley Composer: James Horner Producer: Charles Gordon and Lawrence Gordon for Carolco; released by Universal MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 107 minutes Format VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Academy Awards, 1989: Nominations: Adapted Screenplay, Picture, Original Score Box Office: $64.4M.

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