Monday, May 7, 2012

HOT: A League of Their Own

I am glad that I did this little Hanks-O-Thon. Not only because I finally get to see movies I have not seen before (this is not one of those) and not only because I get to see films from Tom Hanks that I truly love, but haven't watched in a while. But, watching these films for the first time in the order in which he made them I get to see Hanks become the actor I love.

This was where things began to turn for Hanks. You can tell the actor he is becoming, the actor that will win Oscars, this is where that begins.

A League of Their Own isn't even about Hanks' character. The film is about the first women's baseball league that was created during World War II when the men of baseball were thrust into duty. Instead of shutting down baseball all together, the owners came up with the idea of allowing women to play the game.

This film follows two sisters, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty). Hinson is a married women (as she tells us many time throughout the film) to a solider, Bob (Bill Pullman). He is an assistant manager at the dairy, but is over seas in the war. Keller is single and Dottie's younger sister. She feels lost in Dottie's shadow and is looking to branch out on her own.

They both play for a local softball team and Dottie ends up hitting the game-winning hit while a scout, Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz) is looking for girls to tryout for this new baseball league. Dottie of course refuses, but Kit is raring to go. Capadino, though, wants nothing to do with her - he wants the talent. But, as he is saying goodbye he touches her arm - and thinks she may just be able to be a pitcher. He says she can go as long as Dottie comes too.

Well, Kit convinces Dottie to make the trip and both of them make the Rockford Peaches, one of four teams in the league that is forming. They are joined by a number of girls, but Mae Mordabito (Madonna) and Doris Murphy (Rosie O'Donnell) stick out the most.

The league is overseen by Ira Lowenstein (David Strathairn) who gets the job from one of the owners, Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall). Harvey is the one who hires Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) as the Peaches manager. Dugan is a former baseball player, who was actually very talented, but developed a serious drinking problem and drank himself out of the league - especially after he fell and ruined the cartilage in his knee.

Dugan takes the job because he needs the money, but spends the first part of the movie drunk and pretty much passed out on the bench during games - so Dottie does most of the managing.

Something, though, changes and Dugan begins taking things a little more serious. He forms a bond with Dottie and she does her best to sober him up a bit.

The main conflict, though, despite the issue of selling women's baseball to the public is the relationship between Dottie and Kit. Dottie continues to overshadow her little sister and has become the face of the league and its best player. After a few squabbles, Dottie threatens to quit just before the playoffs unless she is traded to another team - but the team trades Kit instead, to rival Racine.

I hadn't watched this film in its entirety for awhile and I forgot just how great it was. Sure a few things didn't really make sense - like a baseball league with four teams and Rockford finally making the playoffs, of course they did. But, the acting is definitely superb. The relationships between all of the characters are outstanding. Davis and Petty did a great job at playing sisters and the bond formed between Davis and Hanks seemed so natural.

Hanks really knocked it out of the park with this one. His metamorphosis from drunk, chauvinistic former ball player into an actual manager for this group of ladies was outstanding and he played both sides of the coin so well. Another thing that stands out was O'Donnell (and Madonna to a lesser extent). You tend to forget with all of the controversy surrounding her that she was once a talented actress, and this may be one of her best roles. She really played the baseball player with a big mouth well.

When I first watched this movie, I guess when it first came out, I was always on the side of Kit and even had a bit of a crush on Petty. But, watching it again I see that her character was actually a whiny, younger sibling who blamed almost everything that doesn't go her way on Dottie, despite Dottie trying to help her succeed. I guess that's just the older sibling in me finally noticing that. But, now I was on Team Dottie.

It also takes a ton for me to get a bit misty eyed. I don't really cry, but I do get a bit choked up every now and then, and this film always seems to do that to me. I found myself feeling that same way despite seeing this so many times - it still gets me.

Despite my love for Hanks and having enjoyed a lot of his previous films, this is the one where he jumps into superstar actor for me. And we are about to go on a run of spectacular films in his career, so stay tuned.


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