Field of Dreams (1989)

(On TV, June 2017) “Build it and they will come” is what most people remember from Field of Dreams, but one of the surprises in discovering this film from pop-culture references is that much of its best-known material (a guy builds a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, attracts ghosts of long-dead players) only makes up a small and early portion of the film. Much of the rest is spent on a road trip in which our protagonist travels through time to bring contentment to a frustrated guru and solves his daddy issues. (But I’m simplifying.) As modern magical realism, Fields of Dream does have the advantage of evangelizing baseball to the point of slipping fantasy tropes under a heavy blanket of false nostalgia. What would have felt incongruous in other contexts here gets a fantasy pass. It helps that Kevin Costner’s stoic persona sells the illusion and drives the dramatic motor of the story: Fields of Dreams dates from his early stardom moments, at a time when he was best placed to represent the ideal of the down-to-earth American man. As a non-American, I’m less taken than most in glorifying baseball as the key to all-around happiness and spiritual fulfillment, but even the mawkish sentimentality of Fields of Dreams has its place somewhere.

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