I like to say that despite all the things working against it, I still end up liking The Natural. Because as a film, especially as a sports film, I don’t think that I should really be that drawn to it. It’s about baseball, and that’s something of a non-sport in Guyana. It’s also outrageously long for a film of this genre, and the ending is just a bit too pretty and fantastical for me to really take it seriously. Yet, as I said, I like this. There is just something about The Natural that I find appealing.
The story of The Natural is simple, perhaps deceptively so, it’s simply a story about making a comeback. A man much too old makes his debut in the baseball arena and he becomes a hero in the process. With a much more positive ending than the original novel on which it is based, The Natural does come off looking like a fairytale, but it still is a successful film. Approximately 75% of this depends on Robert Redford. As far as directing goes, I’m not here or there when it comes to Redford…but as an actor he’s always impressed. It seems unlawful that despite good performances [Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, The Natural, The Sting etc] he only has one acting nomination at the Oscars. But I digress. Redford’s performance is especially special because in addition to being in the majority of the scenes the role is particularly introverted. He doesn’t have many big speeches, and he doesn’t exist in grand gestures but he’s supposed to play a man that we believe is as good as they get, and Redford definitely accomplishes that. It’s a far cry from his pairings with Paul Newman back in the day.
One reason that I was drawn to watch The Natural the first time was because I know it featured Glenn Close in an Oscar nominated Supporting role. Well, you know my thoughts on Glenn – so I was very curious when I’d heard her nomination referred to was a surprise. It’s easy to see why they thought it was a surprise, and with my prejudice I can’t say. I always thought that the supporting actress line-up that year was rather week. And in such a weak year they still couldn’t nominate Amy Madigan over her dismal costar Lindsay Crouse, but once again I digress. Glenn plays the love of Redford’s life – if you want to put it that way, which I do. It’s the most demure character she’s played, and it’s almost disconcerting. I can honestly say that whether or not she deserved the nomination is debatable, but she makes the best of the role. In fact she comes out as a strong character from a paper thin role, which is just one of the traits of this talented actress.
Robert Duvall and Kim Basinger gives creditable supporting performance, and Barbara Hershey does something special with one of the freakiest roles in eighties cinema – and you can quote me. The Natural is a nice movie. I suppose if you’re a fan of baseball you’ll love it. I have no thoughts on the sport either way, but I find the movie decidedly charming. It’s definitely worth your time.