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Last night, I was privileged to attend a special screening of “42,” the highly-anticipated Warner Bros & Legendary Pictures biopic of the late, great Jackie Robinson, with a special reception for community leaders, hosted in part by Brewers Community Foundation.
The showing, which took place at Mayfair Mall’s AMC Theatres, was one of just three private screenings in the entire country. In addition to Milwaukee, the other screenings took place in Washington D.C. (hosted by Michelle Obama) and in Atlanta, GA (with Hank Aaron in attendance), also last evening.
The movie is scheduled to open in theaters on Friday, April 12, but I’ve got a review for you here, plus details on a play based on Robinson’s life opening in Milwaukee called Jackie and Me.
First, in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the 42 trailer to whet your appetite:
Although the movie is called “42,” referencing Jackie Robinson’s jersey number, this story is not only about Jackie—it’s also about legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.
Because, in Rickey’s words, “There is more than playing. I wish it meant only hits runs, and errors-only the things they put in the box score. Because…a baseball box score is a democratic thing. It doesn’t tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election.”
The movie opens in 1945 and chronicles Robinson’s journey from the Negro Leagues team the Kansas City Monarchs to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ AAA Club, the Montreal Royals and finally to his Major League debut on April 15, 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers (a date we now commemorate across MLB as Jackie Robinson Day).
I will warn you that there are a few scenes that are tough to watch—but then you remember that this is not just a fictional movie; it’s something that actually happened less than 70 years ago, and you think about how, if it’s so hard for you to watch, how hard must it have been for Robinson to endure?
That’s the feeling the filmmakers are trying to convey. And they don’t just want you to sympathize with Robinson (although that’s a key theme in the film)—they want to illustrate the type of man that he was, how primarily with help from Rickey, his wife, and a reporter named Wendell Smith, he prevailed in the face of the greatest of adversity and went on to not only break the color barrier, but become the 1947 Rookie of the Year and stolen bases champion, a six-time All-Star, and World Series Champion (1955).
Story aside for a moment, the acting in this film is just superb. Chadwick Boseman, a relatively unknown actor, gives an amazing performance as Jackie Robinson and Nicole Beharie, an actress of similar stature is stunning and gorgeous in her role as his wife, Rachel. And although I will admit that I had my doubts when I heard Harrison Ford was playing Branch Rickey (especially after reading this article), he surprised me with a very believable and powerful portrayal. The other actors in the film, particularly those playing Robinson’s teammates or rivals, also did an excellent job. Whether it was someone lovable who sympathized with Robinson and reached out to him; or someone despicable (and there are plenty), you could tell that each character and line of dialogue was specifically chosen by screenwriter Brian Helgeland and really (excuse the pun) hits home.
One of my favorite people in the story is Pee Wee Reese the Brooklyn Dodgers’ All-Star shortstop, portrayed by Lucas Black. His prowess on the field aside, Reese is also famous for his support of Robinson through the most difficult times.
In the movie he says to Robinson, “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42. That way they won’t be able to tell us apart.”
It’s a moment of levity and a moment of foreshadowing because, as you’re likely aware, each year on April 15, in an inspiring, league-wide effort, Major League Baseball teams observe Jackie Robinson Day. On this day, all players and on-field personnel wear the number “42,” in honor of his indelible legacy and commemorating the historic date when Baseball truly became our national game. This year, because the Brewers have an off-day on Monday, April 15, we’ll celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on April 16 when the San Francisco Giants come to town.
There’s also another Brewers-Robinson connection: First Stage Children’s Theater will feature the play Jackie and Me at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee. It will be performed April 12 through May 5 and Brewers Community Foundation and Rickie Weeks are serving as sponsors of the production. Tickets can be ordered online at firststage.org.
Now since the Brewers had a game last night, unfortunately none of our players were able to attend the screening. However, in Washington, in addition to the movie’s cast and crew, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was in attendance on his off-day. He tweeted:
What an incredible showing tonight of the movie 42! So moving and just an unbelievable story! He’s a hero to all! #42 twitter.com/Bharper3407/st…
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) April 3, 2013
Likewise, some of the Atlanta Braves spent their off-day seeing the movie as well:
— Chris Johnson (@C_Johnson28) April 2, 2013
Pumped to be at the 42 Movie screening tonight!!! #42Atlanta
— Cory Gearrin (@CoryGearrin) April 2, 2013
Special off day, having a chance to watch the movie “42″. Such an honor to enjoy the story of a legend. #42Atlanta
— Justin Upton (@JUP_8TL) April 2, 2013
I hope you’ll take our recommendations and go and see this amazing film. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Please share your comments/reviews below.