Every Friday night, Movies.com sends cinephiles (and newlyweds) Sarah and Joe Piccirillo to see a film. Afterwards, they answer a few questions about it. Below is their discussion.
Synopsis: The story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), the first African-American to play major league baseball.
Was This a Good Date Movie?
Sarah: This was a very wholesome date movie. It leaves you feeling good and there’s a lot to talk about afterward – history, race, baseball, nostalgia, integrity. It’s not a sexy movie, but it is a solid date movie.
Joe: I dunno. Watching people struggle against oppression isn’t really a mood setter. This is a good movie to watch alone or with your buddies.
How Was the Casting?
Sarah: Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie as Jackie and Rachel Robinson were solid and likeable. They had an easy chemistry; it was probably the only time I’ve ever seen a male actor say "I love you" and bought it.
Joe: Chris Meloni is a terrifying actor. Even though he plays a decent man in the movie, he always seems seconds away from murdering everyone (including the audience). It’s a little off-putting. So if Leo Durocher was a sociopath, Meloni nailed it.
Sarah: Stabler is insane! Meanwhile, Harrison Ford’s performance as Branch Rickey lies squarely between brilliance and caricature.
Joe: Ford looks like the 35-year-old version of himself in "old person" makeup. I have to admit I was pleased that he went all in with the role, even if he did give the guy a Richard Nixon voice.
Sarah: John C. McGinley played announcer Red Barber. I’d heard the name but knew nothing about the guy. Now I want him to narrate my life.
Sarah: Okay, so it had all the stuff you might expect, from the opening voice-over that gave us historical context to the end scenes that gave us the outcomes for various characters…
Joe: …or showing only the highlight reel of the guy’s life and glossing over any of his complexities.
Sarah: And that was actually okay. It was all palatable until the end, when everything went slo-mo for, like, ever. I napped. It had the same gravity as that commercial with Paris Hilton eating a whopper on a car.
Joe: Some things weren’t cliché, like Harrison Ford’s neck-nuzzling scene with Jackie in the dugout – that was just weird. But alas, the movie supplies us with the greatest movie cliché of all time: behind every brave trailblazer is an even braver old, white guy.
Sarah: Right, Jackie asks Ford’s Rickey if he wants a player who won’t fight back and Rickey replies that he wants someone who’s strong enough not to. Ugh.
What Will You Be Thinking About Tomorrow?
Sarah: Halfway into the film, I was thinking how racism was being treated with a light and distant touch.
Joe: Right, it was a sort of sanitized racism, which does a disservice to the struggles he had to endure and minimizes the severity of the threats he faced. In current context, overt racism seems so foreign that it’s the filmmakers’ job to make us feel the oppression of that era. And they failed.
Sarah: But then came that scene where the Phillies manager, played by Alan Tudyk, relentlessly taunts Robinson with racial slurs during his at-bats. The whole tone of the film shifts; it was incredibly intense.
Joe: And brutal. If the filmmakers had provided more scenes like that it would have been a darker but more powerful victory at the end.
Sarah: I wonder how Tudyk felt after filming it. Obviously actors play horrible people all the time, but there was just something so aggressive about this that I can’t imagine the vibe on the set after filming that day.
Joe: I’m sure Stabler gave him a high-five.
Sarah: I didn’t really want to see this movie because I thought it was going to be cheeseball central, but I ended up going with it and really enjoying myself. See it.
Joe: Yep, see it.
Sarah and Joe are writers/editors who live in Boston. They met in a bar and married within a year. They love to argue about early Woody Allen films and old romantic comedies. They both agree to hate musicals.