Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Baseball Watch: Bull Durham (1988)
Format: Amazon streaming
I was about thirteen when this movie hit, and it was one of those movies that arrived that everyone else saw when it came out, but at the time I wasn't that interested in baseball or Susan Sarandon, so I skipped it. Well, life changes things in some amazing ways.
I suppose if there's a marker to say "was this a good movie or not?" I can point to the fact that I put this on as I was about to do something else (edit a podcast) but was fiddling around before settling in, and just put it on to have something on for a few minutes to see what it was like, and the next thing I knew I was finishing the movie.
In many ways, this movie is "problematic" in the 2019 POV, was curiously progressive for 31 years ago, and probably doesn't care either way about your problems or lack thereof, because Rated-R adult-oriented comedies of the 1980's did not give a shit about those sorts of things (your mileage will vary on this notion)*. In some ways, there's some refreshing honesty with these characters in their baseball fairy tale (man, Costner's done three baseball movies I know about...)/ romantic comedy.
Sarandon plays a die-hard baseball fan - a fan of literature, vintage music and style - who sees metaphysics, religion and meaning wrapped up in the game (I always enjoy the poetic view of baseball as expressed in film, books and elsewhere), and who has found her role in the cosmic wheel. Each season, she selects one player with unrefined talent and, through a program of vigorous sex, literary tutoring, actual coaching and a few trade secrets, manages to turn promising players into skilled players.
Costner plays someone closer to her age, having had kicked around the minors for 12 years (making him 33-ish or so to her late 30's), brought in the Durham Bulls of the Carolina farm league to "mature" Tim Robbins' wild-eyed, naive pitcher with an arm like a cannon - if no one bothered to aim that cannon. And, of course, Sarandon wants to train the young fellow but finds a more kindred spirit in Costner - who, completely defying what I thought this movie was about, is having none of it.
Anyway - parts of it are silly, some of it overly simple, some of it is honest character work about adults at a cross-roads. I don't want to read too much into it, but I dug it. And Sarandon is charming as all hell in this movie, just as Costner and Robbins are perfectly cast in their respective roles.
There's also a curiously good soundtrack for the film, a little bit more heady than a lot of the rock and pop selections that permeate rom-com soundtracks of the era, but that fits with the story and characters.
*and given the tacit push to soft-censor media and characters that do not fit specific rubrics for acceptable characters and character arcs on screen here in this year of 2019, I expect we'll see a hard push back this direction by middle of next decade