My first thought when I left the theatre today was, I just saw the first Best Picture Nominee of 2013. On Jackie Robinson Day I went to see 42. 42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson as the first black player in professional baseball.
I wasn’t alive for the days of segregation, but seeing it portrayed so well was inspiring and heartbreaking. It makes it real for a generation that was lucky enough to never experienced racism of this degree.
Robinson’s voyage into this prominent place in history is started by Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford. Rickey sees profit in bringing a black player to his club, yet tells Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) he is motivated by the barriers he will break. As the movie progresses it is really hard to tell his true motives.
Robinson faces struggles every step of the way. He is supported every step of the way though by his loving wife (Nicole Beharie). She is at a most of his games and a source of strength. There are some scenes of cruelty by the crowd, the opposing team, and even his own team mates. But there is a great juxtaposition to this and then him looking and meeting her loving eye in the audience. It is a great symbol of what marriage is.
One of the great surprises was John C. McGinley playing announcer Red Barber. One of my favorite roles of McGinley is that of Dr. Perry Cox of the TV Show Scrubs. His narration of the game is so fun. Especially his color commentary and filler during the game.
The language is very mild with only one excrement expletive. The real language issue is the use of the word “Nigger.” (I also use the word “Voldemort” in context) It is used with such vitriol and cruelty that I actually heard gasps in the audience in several scenes. There is bit of sexual content as a coach is seen in bed with a woman who is married to someone else. Branch Rickey seems a bit like a preacher at times calling people to repentance with no qualms about it. Many of today’s sports figures do leave not much to admire. 42 calls back to a day when public figures had moral expectations. Some characters see the consequences for their choices when they are brought to light.