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Posts Tagged ‘based on true story’

Based on a true story, A League of Their Own tells the story of the first female baseball league, which was started when many of the professional male baseball players were away fighting in World War II.  Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Duggan, a washed-up, alcoholic former professional player, who is given the job – which he doesn’t really want – of managing the Rockford Peaches team.  Geena Davis and Lori Petty play sisters Dottie and Kit, who have issues with jealousy, and who are both signed on to play for the team.  Other players on the league are portrayed by Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Bitty Schram, and others.  The story shows the league’s progress, from a game of little interest to outsiders, to a popular sport in its own right.

I really enjoyed this film.  All of the actors were perfect, especially Davis, Petty and Hanks.  There was a lot of comedy in the film, but it was also very moving in parts, and I actually did cry.  Baseball gave these women – and Jimmy Duggan – something to live for, and a sense of self-belief, which some of them desperately needed.  It also gave them a sense of camaraderie at a time when many of them had loved ones fighting overseas.  I loved how Jimmy was initially resentful of managing a girls team, but how he came to appreciate their talent, and want to fight their corner with them – his personal story was one of redemption, and I loved the character.

There are lots of baseball scenes in this film, but you do not need to like, or even really understand, the sport to enjoy it (although a basic knowledge of the game might help).

I waited a long time to watch the movie, because I was not sure that I would like it.  However, it gets a definite 10 out of 10 from me, and I do not intend to leave it that long before watching again.  Very highly recommended.

Year of release: 1992

Director: Penny Marshall

Producers: Penny Marshall, Elliot Abbot, Robert Greenhut, Ronnie D. Clemmer, Joseph Hartwick, Bill Pace, Amy Lemisch

Writers: Kim Wilson, Kelly Candaele, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Main cast: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, David Strathairn, Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner, Bitty Schram

 

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This review is NOT of the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy and Frederic March, but instead, a 1988 adaptation of Lee and Lawrence’s play. The play was based on the real-life Scopes Monkey Trial, but it NOT a retelling of that story. In essence, a young schoolteacher in a Baptist town in the 1920s, is arrested for teaching evolution to his students, and the case goes to trial, attracting nationwide media interest.

Kirk Douglas plays Reverand Brady, the lawyer for the prosecution, and Jason Robards plays Henry Drummond, the solicitor for the schoolteacher. Kyle Secor plays the schoolteacher, Bertram Cates. I have seen some unfavourable comparisons of Douglas and Robards in comparison to Frederic March and Spencer Tracy, who played the same roles in the original film adaptation. For that reason, it was probably beneficial to me as a viewer, that I have not seen that version of the film.

I was actually gripped by this film. Jason Robards was superb as Drummond, injecting a note of humour and a healthy dose of cynicism into the proceedings. He is frustrated by the Judge, who is clearly biased towards the prosecution, and who refuses to allow Drummond to call any of his expert witnesses. However, Kirk Douglas seemed somewhat jarring as Reverend Brady, and I actually found his character to be quite sinister. Jean Simmons was excellent as his wife, however.

Kyle Secor is an under-rated actor, and does a fine job here. However, despite being the character who is the reason for the trial happening in the first place, Cates is really just a supporting character. This film is all about the two lawyers.

As for the ending…well, I’m not sure whether it was what I expected or not. But it rounded things off perfectly. The film made me want to see both other movie adaptations of the play (as well as the 1960 film, there is also a 1999 adaptation, starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott), and also find out more about the real-life case, which inspired the playwrights. This 1988 version doesn’t come around on television that often, and I was unable to find a DVD version of it, but if you do see it playing anytime, it’s well worth checking out.

Year of release: 1988

Director: David Greene

Writers: Jerome Lawrence (play), Robert E. Lee (play), John Gay

Main cast: Kirk Douglas, Jason Robards, Darren McGavin, Jean Simmons, Kyle Secor, Megan Follows

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This film is based on Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name, which tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man from California.  In 1992, he hiked into the Alaskan wilderness, away from society and civilisation, where he could hunt and live off the land.  His emaciated body was found four months later, he having apparently died from starvation.  In May 1990, Christopher gave almost $25,000 dollars (the remains of the money given to him by a friend to study a degree) to Oxfam International, and effectively ran away from home, hitching his way across America.  En route he made several friends, all of whom seemed fairly transient due to his reluctance to stay in one place for very long; his aim was to get to Alaska, and all the people he met on the way and the casual jobs he did were just part of the journey.

The film starts just as he gets into the Alaskan wilds, and then jumps back to an earlier time to show the McCandless family dynamic, and the events that led up to Christopher’s journey.

Emile Hirsch plays Christopher, and does an excellent job.  Christopher is clearly an academically gifted young man, but is also possessed of a certain naivety, and has been damaged by his parents’ abusive relationship and their harsh emotional treatment of him and his sister Carine.  Fine support is provided by, amongst others, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt and Vince Vaughn, but this is really Hirsch’s film and he carries it very well, depicting the young man’s descent from optimism and eagerness into loneliness and fright.

It is an absorbing film, and although it’s about two and a half hours long, it certainly didn’t feel that long.  I didn’t feel that it romanticised what happened to Christopher, although from reading more about the actual true story, it would seem that some poetic licence may have been used.

I definitely cared about the character, although even if I hadn’t known his eventual fate before watching, it still would have always seemed that his journey would not end in a happy way.  However, I also found him quite frustrating at times.  He hitched into an environment that he knew little about, and didn’t seem to make even the most basic preparations.  Unfortunately, this cost him dearly.

The film was shot on location in Alaska, and there are some fantastic scenes showing the beautiful and unforgiving landscape.  (Almost made the film worth watching for the scenery alone.)  I must also mention the fantastic soundtrack, which was done by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.  The songs fitted the various moods of the film perfectly, with some gorgeous and haunting melodies.

So to sum up, in parts this film is uplifting, but it is also very sad sometimes.  But it was certainly well worth watching, and a film I would recommend.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Sean Penn

Writers: Jon Krakauer (book), Sean Penn

Main cast: Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener, Hal Holbrook

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Click here for my review of Jon Krakauer’s book.

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