Last year, “Field of Dreams” was part of Turner Classic Movies’ Big Screen Classics series at Cinemark to celebrate its 30th anniversary. It came to the theatre on Father’s Day, so my sister had the perfect idea to take our dad to see it.
I love the movie, always have. It’s one of the greatest films ever. Born the year after “Field of Dreams” hit theaters, I never saw it on the big screen.
What an experience.
The late great James Horner’s Oscar-nominated score and The Voice calling out, “If you build it, he will come” to Ray Kinsella transported me into the world. I knew my family was in for something special.
I cried as I always do by the end. That Father’s Day solidified “Field of Dreams” as my favorite sports movie of all time.
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) lives a normal life as a farmer in Iowa until he hears a voice in the cornfield. He interprets the message as if he builds a baseball field Shoeless Joe Jackson will return from the dead to play on it. However, he finds out there’s much more to The Voice and the magical field.
Costner and James Earl Jones (Terence Mann) give awesome performances, but this film’s real MVP works off camera.
Phil Alden Robinson’s Oscar-nominated script builds the foundation for the best picture nominee.
Based off W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe,” Robinson greatly improves on the source material.
He gives every character an opportunity to shine and writes one of the most compelling 20 minutes in movie history at the end of the film.
He also reworked the book’s ending to hold the reveal of Ray Kinsella’s father until the end, which gives the film an opportunity to explain where their relationship stood before Ray’s dad died.
Robinson also perfectly balances humor and drama and creates a realistic family dynamic among the Kinsellas.
Rookie of the year
Frank Whaley brings an exuberance to the young Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. He also grows as a player and a person in only about 10 minutes of screentime.
His performance adds to the heartbreak when he has to leave the field forever and transform into his older self, Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster), to save Ray’s daughter Karin from choking on a hot dog.
Jones as Mann brings “Field of Dreams” to another level from the moment Ray tries to persuade him to go to a baseball game, even threatening to kidnap him, to the second he fades into the cornfield.
He gives the best performance of the film, providing comedy, genuine drama and one of the most poignant speeches in cinema history.
Jones also evolves, starting as a curmudgeon who wants to be left alone.
One of the funniest scenes comes when Ray asks Mann what he wants and Mann responds, “I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, write again, be a leader. I want them to start thinking for themselves. And I want my privacy!”
Ray turns to the venders and says, “No, I meant what do you want?” Mann turns saying, “Oh … dog and a beer.”
Mann rekindles a fire within himself after hearing The Voice and becomes more open as the film continues.
The classic “People will come” speech still holds up and serves as the moment he fully rediscovers the man he used to be.
Nobody could have played that role as well as Jones.
Amy Madigan as Ray’s wife Annie should be the basis for all significant others in film. She’s not a plot device; she doesn’t hamper the progression of the protagonist. Instead, Annie supports her husband.
That doesn’t mean she follows him blindly. She’s her own person and she doesn’t totally agree with Ray about building the baseball field and pushing the family into financial instability. She challenges him and talks Ray’s next steps through with him. Ultimately, she supports her husband because they love each other.
Madigan also steals a scene when parents in the school district try to ban a book written by Mann.
Madigan as Annie commands the screen as she persuades the crowd to keep the book and then hilariously celebrates in the hallway, reliving the moment she called one of the parents a Nazi cow.
Robinson wrote a strong female character in Annie and Madigan further elevates the role with a great performance.
The real Shoeless Joe threw right-handed and batted left-handed. Ray Liotta, who portrays him in the film, throws left-handed and bats right-handed.
Also, Annie’s brother Mark (Timothy Busfield) is a good and necessary character. Although Mark didn’t mean for Karin to fall off the bleachers and almost choke to death, he most certainly caused it. My problem is after that happens Annie offers to get him a cup of coffee. If that were my daughter, I would have at the very least asked him to leave.
One shining moment
The last 20 minutes is non-stop greatness that leads to the best scene. Built throughout the film, Ray regrets his troubled relationship with his father. His two greatest sins against his dad were refusing to have a catch with him and telling him he couldn’t respect a man whose favorite baseball player (Shoeless Joe) is a criminal. He never had an opportunity to take it back before his father died.
After Mann’s impassioned speech, Dr. Graham’s life-saving transformation and Mann agreeing to follow the players into the cornfield, Ray finally finds out why he built the field and went the distance.
“Oh my God,” Ray says. “It’s my father.”
A young John Kinsella (Dwier Brown) walks toward him and his family. John introduces himself to Ray and Ray introduces him to his wife and granddaughter. He almost calls him his father, but isn’t ready to verbally acknowledge it.
Annie and Karin leave them to talk.
Ray and John start to reconnect when John asks him, “Is this heaven?”
Ray: “It’s Iowa.”
Ray chuckles and says, “Yeah.”
John: “Coulda sworn it was heaven.”
The next sequence resonates more each time I watch it, because Ray finally treats John like a father again and acts like his son.
In childlike wonderment, Ray asks: “Is there a heaven?”
Happy to reassure and excite his son like any father would, John responds: “Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.”
Ray looks around, takes in his life and realizes his dream came true. Beautifully foreshadowed in the beginning of the film when Ray’s wife and daughter are laughing on the porch, the scene repeats itself as he cherishes his perfect, happy family.
Ray: “Maybe this is heaven.”
They shake hands and say goodnight. As John walks away, Ray finally breaks the barrier between them.
Ray: “Hey, dad? You wanna have a catch?”
John: “I’d like that.”
It’s beautiful when Ray catches the first ball from his father. He embraces it with his glove, pulls it out carefully and gives a slight smile as he throws it back.
If the audience isn’t crying yet, Annie throws the lights on for the father and son playing catch and cars start pulling into the parking lot to see the field and the players. The Kinsellas will no longer have financial struggles.
The weight of the scene still resonates because of the stellar script and emotional performances from Brown and Costner.