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  • by David C. Terr

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    the natural movie posterTitle: The Natural

    Director: Barry Levinson

    Starring: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, Wilford Brimley, Robert Prosky

    Release Date: Jan. 1, 1984

    Running Time: 137 min

    Genres: Drama, Sport

     

    Commentary
    The Natural is a superb baseball film featuring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, an incredible baseball player, "the best that ever was", who becomes nearly fatally wounded by his first lover. He nevertheless goes on to become a great player in his middle-age. The film portrays a struggle between good and evil Hobbs must face. The acting as well as the baseball scenes are very well-done. The Natural is based on a 1952 novel of the same title by Bernard Malamund.

    Plot Summary
    Fresh out of high school in 1923, Roy Hobbs is an amateur baseball player from the Midwest touring the country looking for a team to play on. During his travels he meets Harriet Bird (Hershey), a very sinister woman who becomes convinced he's the best baseball player in the world. She ends up shooting him in a hotel room before killing herself.

    The movie then skips ahead to 16 years later. Hobbs moves to New York and trains for the New York Knights (a fictitious team), who's having lots of trouble. He gets signed by a scout, but the manager Pop Fisher (Brimley) is unimpressed with Hobbs and refuses to let him play. Hobbs refuses to leave though, and eventually he's given a chance to practice batting. He ends up hitting every ball well past the fence, whence Fisher finally decides to let him play. In his first hit, he literally tears the cover off the ball, leaving an unravelling ball of string in the outfield. After that he hits one home run after another, turning the Knights into a winning team.

    Shortly thereafter, Hobbs is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Iris Gaines (Close), who it turns out he'd have a son with whom he hasn't met yet.

    The Judge (Prosky), the corrupt owner of the Knights, wants Hobbs to lose so that he can become full owner of the team. He fails to convince Hobbs to lose, but realizes that women are his weakness, so he arranges for an associate of his to introduce him to his mistress Memo Paris (Basinger). Once Hobbs gets involved with her, he starts losing. As he starts to back away from her, The Judge resorts to poisoning Hobbs, aggravating his old wounds and causing his stomach to bleed. Going against doctor's orders, Hobbs decides to play in the World Series in any case.

    As he plays, his stomach wounds grows more and more severe and it is doubtful whether he will survive. But in the end he sees Iris in the stands with a 16-year-old boy who looks like him. This inspires him to play his heart out once again. A spectacular hit is shown in which he strikes out the lights, causing it to rain sparks, and hits a home run.

    Relationship to The Odyssey
    To a large extent, the plot of The Natural mirrors that of the ancient Greek classic The Odyssey by Homer. Hobbs hiatus period following his nearly fatal wound is like Odysseus' voyage away from home. Also, like Odysseus, who'd encountered Calypso and Circe, Hobbs also has numerous sexual encounters. In the end, however, like Odysseus' reunion with his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, Hobbs is reunited with Iris and his son.


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