23a What's the Best
The Natural (1984)
VINCENT L. TOSCANO
There are so many reasons to select The Natural as the best baseball movie. First are the fine performances from a top notch cast. Robert Redford has the blond boyish good looks and athletic ability to play Roy Hobbs, and he brings to that character not only a dash of the All-American boy but also hints of some deeper, darker aspects of character. Barbara Hershey is quite alluring as Harriet Bird, the mysterious and deadly “lady in black” who claims Hobbs as her final victim. Wilford Brimley's craggy features and long-suffering demeanor give Pop Fisher, the manager of the NY Knights, a kind of nobility as he chases his dream of a pennant. Robert Duvall plays the reporter Max Mercy with the aura of sleazy sanctimony one might expect from the media that makes athletes heroes one day and goats the next. Kim Basinger portrays Memo Paris, Pop Fisher's niece and willing accomplice in the scheme to have the Knights lose; then the judge can take the team from Pop. Her performance as the seductress who woos Hobbs to distract him from his game hints at a character torn between love of money and just love. Finally, as Iris, the girl from Hobbs's past and the mother of the son he didn't know he had, Glen Close exudes a purity and dignity that rescues Hobbs from the clutches of Memo.
Then there is the story line adapted somewhat faithfully from Bernard Malamud's novel, until the dramatic changes needed to produce the Hollywood ending (in the book, Hobbs strikes out). As a young baseball phenom, Hobbs's magical baseball