Written and Directed by: Brian Helgeland
I got the privilege of going to an advanced screening of 42, and boy was it a blast. There is nothing greater than a room full of American cinema lovers watching a film about an American hero. I have been to quite a few screenings, and if you ever get the opportunity to go to one, I would highly recommend it. The people you are with and the environment that surrounds you make the entire viewing experience more enjoyable.
There is not much need for a prologue as this film is simply the story of Jackie Robinson. The good news is that the film does not vary away from it being “the Jackie Robinson story”. With movies that are based upon well-known true stories, filmmakers often choose to write a substory of the main event instead of just showing the main event itself. Fortunately, the filmmakers chose not to do so, and 42 gives the viewer what it promises.
Writer/Director Brian Helgeland is a veteran in the writing world with some of his credits including Mystic River, Man on Fire, Green Zone, Robin Hood, and L.A. Confidential for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. As for his directing, he is relatively unknown. The only two semi-major directing titles that he has had are Payback (1999) and A Knight’s Tale (2001). With those films being 14 and 12 years ago,he felt that it was his time to go back to sitting in the director’s chair. With his experience in writing and lack of experience in directing viewers would assume that the writing would outweigh the directing.. they would be wrong. His directing is solid and at times beautiful, but his writing is often has a great lack of depth. It’s a movie you could watch while on Facebook or texting your girlfriend due to there being no complexity behind the script. The writing is at times very black and white (no pun intended) and lacks the thought that great films have.
The performances by the immediate cast are brilliant. I do not always think Harrison Ford’s acting is worthy of all the hype that it gets; however, his performance in 42 is breathtaking. The filmmakers took a bold risk choosing to cast Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, and it did pay off. The casting director clearly chose the person that was best fitted for the job instead of going for a more well-known actor, and kudos to them for that. Nicole Beharie was the greatest surprise of this film. She was emotionally moving as well as lighthearted when necessary. The three leading roles that are previously mentioned are all beautiful performances; however, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. The supporting cast (excluding Andre Holland) are all weak, and are even hard to watch at times. It is clear that these supporting actors are “pretending” to be characters instead of actually becoming characters.
It’s always great to get a reminder of the hell that African Americans went through only 60 years ago, and 42 does a great job of displaying that reminder. They stuck to the basics, and did not allow things to get too complicated. The key flaw with 42, was the cheesiness. It falls victim too a few too many sports movie stereotypes. The kid with the dream, the villainous naysayer, and just about every other sports cliche is visible in the film. As usual the acting begins to suck when the script turns into a cliche. There are scenes that are supposed to be heart-warming, but they end up being hard to watch.
42 can be put on the same level as films with similar stories (Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, The Express, etc.). This is not awful news, but viewers were hoping for more. Take 42 with the cheese that comes on it, don’t expect to think a lot, and appreciate it’s ability to tell a classic story.
Best Picture Movie Reviews: 72/100