Bull Durham Oct 4, 2018 10:53:41 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 4, 2018 10:53:41 GMT -5
Bull Durham (1988)
Directed by: Ron Shelton
Directed by: Ron Shelton
Kevin Costner (center) plays minor league catcher "Crash" Davis in Bull Durham.
I feel like everyone knows someone who played baseball at a high, competitive level, meaning minor league, pioneer league, or one of the many umpteenth ball-clubs that exist today. Unlike professional football, there's no shortage of opportunities for young, ambitious players of America's favorite passtime, but more opportunities means a wider pool of hopefuls, which is why the odds of making the majors seem like the equivalent of going outside in a thunderstorm and successfully dodging rain. Bull Durham, however, understands there's both an honesty and an urgency in the minors, and has no problem spending time among the projects as opposed to the prospects.
"Crash" Davis is a project. A veteran catcher with over ten years spent in the minors, he's sent down to the single-A Durham Bulls to mentor a cocky rookie pitcher named LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), who has everything it takes to strikeout hot-shots in the majors. Their relationship, marked by generational differences on top of staunchly incongruent skill/competition-levels, is immediately contentious, and doesn't get much better when Annie (Susan Sarandon) is thrown into the mix. She's a self-described follower of the religion of baseball, who has gravitated towards the "Church of Baseball." She serves her place of worship by choosing one player on the Bulls to be her lover every year; she'll take them under her wing, romance them, encourage them, and read them a little Whitman and Dickinson from time-to-time — now that's diversity that would make an English major sweat.
Annie latches on to LaLoosh early, but his simpler ways don't entice her the way Crash's prove to with time. Crash is much more assured, or more accurately, stuck in his ways with a heap of life experience under his belt. He's seen baseball make and break guys, and one of those guys is him. He's a philosopher in his own dugout, and Annie sings a tune different than the one he's used to. They always say opposites attract.
The film was directed by Ron Shelton, who spent most of his twenties bouncing around different minor league ball-clubs himself, hitting dingers, and making memories in the process. A spry young athlete, Shelton embraced the early-morning freedoms offered by the late-afternoon practices and games by going to the movies on a regular basis, falling in love with cinema as he indulged in several matinees. Shelton's strength as a writer/director lies in his awareness of how character-centered pictures make for the most deeply human pieces of work. In Bull Durham, the actual baseball game never feels as if it's overshadowing the brewing romance or the combative personalities of Crash and Annie, mainly because Shelton never allows such a thing to happen. Conversely, he's more intrigued by the way bullpen conversations and on-the-mound discourse is usually defined by frustrated males' troubles with love-making, women, hitting, or superstitious behaviors. The fascinating nuances of character-dialog and how they almost appear to actively resist touching on the sport that is so deeply in the foreground of the film is one of the picture's most likable quirks.
Shelton's film also adopts an earthy aesthetic thanks to cinematographer Bobby Byrne achieving a rustic, Americana quality not too far divorced from Field of Dreams. There's a blissful, dare I say "passtime" vibe to this film's appearance, one with lighting only adequate, like a minor league baseball game, and one that doesn't add a distracting gloss that could danger the complex characters at hand from being intolerable caricatures. For a film about an rugged, blue-collar soul at its center, Bull Durham is gentle and detail-oriented, showing Shelton learned many things from treating himself to movies before gametime.
But what about the performances, you might ask? They're very good. Kevin Costner is young, enviable in his attractiveness, and equally charming both when he's engaging in a soliloquy during a game or calling an ump a certain twelve-letter c-word. Susan Sarandon also brings a strength to Annie that exudes precisely what Shelton seems to be seeking in the character. In a lesser written film, Annie's seductive qualities might've been overplayed, and an ugly aura of exploitation could've obscured the real emotional subtleties behind her. Sarandon finds the right groove for this character, who doesn't have a rulebook because she defies it in so many ways. Furthermore, don't miss some of the solid supporting characters, including the "Clown Prince of Baseball," Max Patkin.
Bull Durham has a lot more to offer intellectually than most sports movies and inspires more heartfelt, challenging emotions than typical romance movies. It's a twofer that Shelton would continue to toy with and yet again succeed at showing in Tin Cup. If there's one director who embodies an American essence (a baseball player who found film and became a director of sincere dramas that would go on to be among the definitive staples of their genres), it's certainly Shelton — for very good reason.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Robert Wuhl, and Max Patkin. Directed by: Ron Shelton.