Monday, April 21, 2014

Diamond Dreams

"If you build it, he will come."

The Voice in "Field of Dreams"

I know men of all ages who get emotional over the ending of "Field of Dreams." Even today, 25 years after its premiere — and after countless viewings.

I agree it's a good movie, but I guess I'm an exception because I have never become teary–eyed about it.

The performances are great. I especially liked Burt Lancaster, in one of his last movie appearances, as Doc Moonlight Graham.

While I'm on the subject, there really was a Moonlight Graham, and, apparently, relatively few liberties were taken with the facts of his life. The most noteworthy liberty was that the real Moonlight Graham made his only major–league appearance nearly two decades earlier than the one in the movie — and it came in the middle of the season rather than the final day of the season.

Moonlight Graham really did go into medicine, really did live in Chisholm, Minn., really did all those selfless things of which they spoke in the movie. I don't think the movie ever mentioned it, but Graham was born in North Carolina. Most viewers probably assumed he was a native of Minnesota.

So ...

Maybe Graham should have spoken in a more pronounced Southern accent when he was portrayed as a younger man, but Lancaster's accent was not a problem for me. After all, he was portraying Moonlight Graham after he had lived in Minnesota for half a century. His speech patterns had to have been affected by what he heard every day.

(I grew up in the South, but I have been told by many people that I don't have much of an accent. I'm really not sure how to account for that — except that my parents lived many places, including overseas, and I never really thought they had much of an accent, either, other than their use of the second–person y'all. I always assumed that was because of their exposure to other accents, and I picked up their speech patterns.)

In real life, Graham died in 1965. The shift in the timeline made it necessary for his death to be in 1972 in the movie.

Otherwise, it seems to have been true to the facts.

Doc Graham was a minor character in "Field of Dreams," though. Audiences discovered that the story really was about Kevin Costner's character, the one through whom the audience first heard the cryptic murmur, "If you build it, he will come."

It turned out to be about Costner and his father, but, for awhile there, most first–time viewers probably thought Doc Graham would be the mysterious he.

After all, Costner was the one who built the baseball field in the middle of his cornfield (and, really, I had to wonder just how many spouses would have been as easygoing about that as Amy Madigan). Costner went on an inexplicable trip to the East where he hijacked a reclusive writer (James Earl Jones) in an apparently vain attempt to make sense of the Voice's one–liners.

The hints that the perplexing comment would turn out to be about Costner and his relationship with his father were all around, and some viewers probably picked up on it, but I didn't.

So the finish came as a surprise to me — but I don't get all blubbery about it whenever I see it.

Maybe I should. After all, the finish is about the symbolic ritual of the son (Costner) playing catch with his father, the bonding experience between father and son. I think many men get emotional because it reminds them of their experiences of bonding with their own fathers.

Not me.

When I was a child, my father was a college professor, and he spent most of the daylight hours on campus. Usually, I was still in bed when he left in the morning, and I was back in bed when he came home at night. When he wasn't in the classroom, he was in his office or the library.

Anyway, we never played catch, as far as I can recall. Maybe once or twice, but it wasn't a big bonding experience. My father preferred to play chess.

Maybe if we had played catch more, the ending of "Field of Dreams" would have had more relevance for me.

But, you know, if bonding really is the point of "Field of Dreams," then it isn't just about a ritual, but it's also about the links that live on from one generation to the next.

Costner's character had a falling out with his father when he was a teenager, but they shared a love of baseball that survived his father's death.

My father and I bonded over other things.

He even taught me how to play chess.