We all know his story, or the basics of his story. The first African American to cross over into white baseball, the only player to have his jersey retired by every single major league team. The legendary Jackie Robinson. What Jackie endured his entire life and career is unimaginable. Baseball is what is it today because of Jackie – the strength, courage and resolve to stand up for what he believes in is superhuman. Jackie helped changed the world regardless of the harassment that was dished out over the course of his career. The ones that stood against Jackie and segregation of baseball aren’t the ones that get their jersey retired by every major league team.
They’re the ones that get traded to different teams or publicly humiliated by their actions while losing their jobs. Baseball is America’s favorite game, it’s a part of our blood. Any baseball fan (me included) knows the impact Jackie had on the game itself. The question is who do you cast in this iconic role? The answer is shockingly simple. Instead of going with a big name actor, which would instantly steal the spotlight from the legend himself, a relatively unknown actor (at the time) was cast in the leading role.
Normally biopics are known to not be historically accurate to the actual events. That’s not the case for 42. The depictions of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) are pretty accurate for the most part. I’m not here to describe in detail of every trial and tribulation that Jackie went through (we have google), but I’m here to talk about the film. It’s one of the better biopics. Jackie is reincarnated through Chadwick and his performance. Although scripted, it’s difficult to watch a and listen to a Caucasian person use vile and evil language toward someone of color. This is where you must separate the art from the performers.
“Baseball was proof positive that democracy was real. A baseball box score after all, is a democratic thing. It doesn’t say how big you are, or what religion you follow it does not know how you voted, or the color of your skin, it simply states what kind of ballplayer you were on any particular day.”
That is what separates good actors from great actors. Several scene’s play an important role in shaping not only baseball as we know it today, but America. The first is when the Dodgers are playing the Phillies and their manager Bob Chapman (Alan Tudyk) verbally abuses Jackie to force him to react. Jackie doesn’t – he has the courage to do nothing but play baseball. Alan, in that small role is incredibly impactful to the movie. It shows the spirit that Jackie has, and Chadwick strengthened that poise.
The world wants him to react – to get angry and become the thing they are calling him. In their eyes, Jackie doesn’t belong but to Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford)Jackie is just the beginning. Jackie is the first, but he certainly won’t be the last. Ford has this quiet rage about him whenever he speaks. Even with all that brewing rage, he’s able to empower those around him to think differently because of the changing times. Harrison brings that stoicism and comfort to the role.
These characters are acted somewhat cut and dry. Chadwick is mostly conservative throughout only showing one really in depth emotionally driven scene in that Phillies game. With all that’s going on around him you almost want him to do something instead of just smiling out of the corner of his mouth standing there. It takes a lot of willpower to do nothing while people degrade you from the stands, the streets and the opposing dugout. We love and respect Jackie regardless just make him a little less robotic.
Jackie and Rachel (Nicole Beharie) also feels a little too stylized. Showing a little more of the struggle they faced as African American’s breaking barriers in the south would have made for an even more compelling film. Chadwick and Nicole have great chemistry together and they have great timing together with their dialogue. They feel like a team – it’s them against the world. It’s respectful to have Rachel Robinson involved in this film and it’s because of her that the film leans more on the accurate side of the line. It makes for a better movie. Plus, I’m not sure she would want her husband depicted in a way that is not true to his character.
“I don’t care if they like me. I didn’t come here to make friends. I don’t even care if they respect me. I know who I am. I’ve got enough respect for myself. I do not want them to beat me.”
This film is filled with impactful moments. Another one comes when the Dodgers played Cincinnati. The focus at first is the father who boos and shout names but it’s the kids that are listening to the hate and racial slurs who learn this behavior. Children are extremely impressionable; they learn from the actions that adults take. But what is even more powerful is when Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) puts his arm around Jackie, the boy changes his outlook on Jackie and people of color and sees his father differently. That is such a powerful scene given the times that we live in today.
Overall, 42 is an impactful, powerful film about an iconic athlete who not only changed the game of baseball but inadvertently pushed the civil rights movement further along. Chadwick gives an astounding performance as the legend while showing off what he can do to the world as he is relatively unknown. It’s a beautiful movie with a ton of heart and soul showing the birth of the legacy that is Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. Each year in April every major league team wears the 42 on their backs to honor the legacy. Only one man wore that number after it was retired in 1997 league wide. If I were to rate 42, I’d rate it a 3.5 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen 42 and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
42 is written and directed by Brian Helgeland is Rated PG-13 and has an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. 42 was released on April 12th, 2013 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 8 minutes. 42 can be bought by online retailers such as iTunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.
If you guys like what you’re reading, please subscribe and check out my Patreon to support the blog in different way.
*I do not own these photos used in this article; all rights reserved to the copyright holder*
In light of the recent events, Chadwick Boseman is forever immortalized on the big screen as well as in life itself. A true superhero beyond Jackie Robinson, Chadwick was incredibly selfless, taking the time to lift others up while silently fighting his own battle. He is the true spirit of all that he has come to portray and now he gets to be with Jackie himself.
Rest in Peace, King