Monday, April 22, 2013

Day One Hundred and Twelve - A League of Their Own, "A little schmaltzy, but still a decent nostalgia/period film about baseball."

A flashback movie starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks about the women's professional baseball league that was started in the tail end of World War Two, when many male MLB players were overseas fighting in Europe or the Pacific, A League of Their Own is less a baseball movie and more a tale of family and female empowerment.

That's not to say that there isn't a decent amount of baseball drama both on and off the field, but the in-game scenes are mostly montages... and brief ones at that.

Anyways, the main thrust of the story is the family drama between sisters Dottie (Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty), both fast pitch softball players in Oregon who are scouted for the new women's league by the wonderfully acerbic Jon Lovitz. As they head to tryouts in Chicago's Wrigley Field (renamed "Harvey Field" to get around certain legalities) and are eventually picked, you can tell there's a lot of rivalry between them. This is mostly on Kit's part as she's jealous of always living in her talented older sister's shadow. Some of that is justified, but most of it feels played up for the drama of the movie.

The other main role is that of the reluctant coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), who starts off as a souse but turns into a competent and enthusiastic leader over the course of the film, mostly due to the subtle reforming and competition that Dottie gives him.

To the side there are quite a few good supporting players like Rosie O'Donnell, Madonna, Megan Cavanaugh, Bitty Schram, and David Strathairn. As an ensemble, everything works pretty well, even if there are a few awkward sequences here and there.

I think my main beef with the film is two-fold.

First, Madonna has top billing, occupying the general cast roll and poster as the third lead over Lori Petty. I find this to be a grave injustice as, at best, she's a supporting actress, not a lead. I don't give a good goddamn that her star power may have helped the film along or that she won a Golden Globe for her tie-in song. The headliners for A League of Their Own were Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Lori Petty... AND THAT'S IT.

My second issue was how little actual baseball was in the film. Major League came out a few years earlier and, despite it not being a historical piece, was a better baseball film... even though it was a silly underdog sports comedy. Hell, Tom Selleck's Mr.Baseball is a better baseball film than this. I really shouldn't give A League of Their Own as much crap over this as I do as the story is more about female empowerment than the actual sport, but still.

Overall, Penny Marshall did a pretty darn good job with this film. She managed to pull together a terrific ensemble with lots of great leads and supporting actors (even including Madonna... she may not have the best reputation, but her performance here worked). Brother Garry is great in the few scenes we see him as candy mogul Harvey and David Strathairn is just fine as well. Honestly, he always delivers and whenever I see him on a cast list, I'm happy.

While there could have been more bonding scenes between Dottie and Jimmy, I was decently pleased with their back and forth. There may have been more left on the cutting floor as the running time was pretty long for a nostalgia dramedy like this, clocking in at over two hours, but you can't always get what you want without overbloating a film. If I had all the baseball and personal drama I wanted, it probably would've broken three hours.

I can definitely recommend A League of Their Own. You just have to forgive the first five minutes' schmaltz before the film flashes back to the Forties and starts proper. Also, kudos to Penny for finding elder actresses who really did look like aged versions of Geena Davis and Lori Petty. It (and the dub job) was so convincing that I was trying to look for makeup lines the whole while.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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