Roy Hobbs is a baseball player who comes almost out of nowhere in the 1930s, to join the New York Knights, who are going through a losing streak. Nobody has ever heard of Hobbs, who has never played professionally, but his talent for the game is undeniable, despite him being nearer retirement age for the sport, than a youthful rookie. As the film shows, his career was halted for a while by an unforeseen tragedy, but that doesn’t stop his determination to be the best baseball player in history.
This is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted film, with an air of magic about it. Robert Redford, at nearly 50 years of age, may have been slightly too old to play Hobbs, but it doesn’t matter at all – partly because he looks so youthful, and partly because he embodies the role so completely. Glenn Close is Iris, the sweet woman from his past, and Kim Basinger is Memo, the avaricious girl who dates him after he becomes famous.
This is certainly a baseball movie, but you do not have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate and enjoy the film (although personally speaking, Baseball is about the only sport which I can enjoy watching). In fact, the sport scenes are very enjoyable, and I could feel the excitement and tension of the players and the crowd.
I loved Redford as the gruff but brutally honest Hobbs, and Close as the young lady he almost left behind. Basinger was great in an extremely unsympathetic role, and Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth gave excellent support as Pop Fisher and Red Blow, the manager and co-owner of the NY Knights, and his assistant. The always superb Robert Duvall also makes the most of his role as Max Mercy, an unscrupulous sports journalist.
Not just a sports movie, but an allegory for life, this film was unexpectedly delightful and moving. As a Redford fan, I was bound to enjoy it, but it exceeded my expectations, and I would certainly recommend it.
Year of release: 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Producers: Philip M. Breen, Roger Towne, Mark Johnson, Robert F. Colesberry
Writers: Bernard Malamud (novel), Roger Towne, Phil Dusenberry
Main cast: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth