Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — Finding the right words, let alone an entire film script worthy enough to honor some of history’s most poignant chapters is not a task I envy for any writer.
The bar seems to be set even higher when said moments bring with them the more painful reminders of our darkest hours and what had to happen to overcome them. The trials that inspired this flick certainly qualify as an example so powerful that it may seem impossible to truly honor the achievements, so much so one can’t help but pause and reflect as each scene progresses. However, while the end result may not dive as deep as those who thrive on shock value for substance desire, enough is there to rally sufficient emotional support in what could become a future classic. If anything, “42” shows us that being the better man isn’t about focusing on the sorrow of being wronged, but how we can better the world by helping others avoid that same suffering.
While those familiar with the involved baseball lore know there is a sufficiently happy ending when it comes to Jackie Robinson’s (portrayed by Chadwick Boseman) career, the key thing to remember here is to not approach this in the same feel good vein as past epics like “Field of Dreams” or “Moneyball.” Even with the dramatizations, the world around our hero depicts a very uncomfortable reality of how tough it was to break through racial barriers in 1940s America.
It is because of the extremely forward thinking manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), that Robinson even has a chance to excel beyond the negro leagues and for much of the early part of the film, he is the only advocate for the future star. We also see a bit of how his rise to new heights impacts those around him like his wife Rachel Isum Robinson (Nicole Beharie) and a writer traveling along with Robinson named Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), who is also trying to break barriers as a black sports writer. Perhaps the only drawback to all of it, is despite a rather balanced approach to show moments of rally and distaste around him, it still feels like there isn’t enough there to help those of us born after this time to really take in those days gone by (Potentially something that could be tackled in a mini or full run TV series).