In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball’s notorious color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team. The heroic act puts both Rickey and Robinson in the firing line of the public, the press and other players. Facing open racism from all sides, Robinson demonstrates true courage and admirable restraint by not reacting in kind and lets his undeniable talent silence the critics for him.
Over the past several months, there seems to have been a heightened awareness of racism – sometimes well-founded, sometimes a bit ridiculous. It seems like everything is racist these days. But ’42’ is set during a time in which racism meant that people were denied basic rights and freedoms simply because of the color of their skin. It wasn’t about hoop earrings or Disney’s Maui costume or #sowhite Oscars. It was about separate bathrooms and drinking fountains and having to move to the back of the bus (or off the bus, for that matter) and horrific violence and vitriol directed toward those who deserved none of it.
Into that world stepped Jackie Robinson. Standing behind him were Branch Rickey and Rachel Robinson and, eventually, the Brooklyn Dodgers themselves. ’42’ is all about how Robinson stood up to the hate and prejudice and anger…and triumphed.
I could cheer and clap and shout for hours because of it.
This movie holds a special place in my heart and a huge part of that is because of the people who inhabit it. Chadwick Boseman brought such strength and determination and sensitivity to the role of Jackie Robinson. I’d liked T’Challa in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, but my admiration for Boseman grew exponentially after watching him in ’42’. (He’s made a disgustingly small amount of films, though. *sigh*) I also appreciated Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson. Rachel is such a wonderful character – very supportive of Jackie even when everything is against him.
And I can’t say enough good things about Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. You really lose sight of the fact that it’s Ford in the role, he does such a good job at embodying a historical person. Such a good job. I also like that reporter guy and the guy who’s always hanging around Rickey and a lot of the Dodgers, too. Especially Pee Wee Reese. That scene where he just drapes his arm over Robinson’s shoulders and chats with him? I cry. It’s epic. (I cry a lot during this movie, in case you couldn’t tell.)
Then there’s Ben Chapman. Let me tell you…I hated the n-word before watching ’42’, but I loathe it a hundred times more now. Still, I don’t hate Chapman. I actually kind of feel sorry for him because, yeah, that is one messed-up worldview but so many people were pretty much trapped in that way of thinking for so long. (And I definitely feel sorry for Alan Tudyk. After reading interviews…ouch. It was so draining and depressing and horrible for him to scream those obscenities for hours on end.)
’42’ is an important movie. It’s my favorite movie of 2017. I rated it 10/10 stars on IMDb (which is rarer than rare). And even though it’s hard to watch in places, I believe everyone should at some point.