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The Natural (1984, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall)



Taken from the novel of the same name by Bernard Malamud, The Natural heralded the return of ROBERT REDFORD to leading man status following his directorial Oscar triumph with Ordinary People. Variety called Barry Levinson’s movie ‘an impeccably made but quite strange fable about success and failure in America’. Inspired by the Arthurian myth of Sir Percival, the film has plenty of loose allusions to the tale for the film buff to pick up on. But at its best the film is simply a straightforward baseball tale of the Boys’ Own variety.

Roy Hobbs (Redford) is a farmboy with the natural ability to time the swing of a baseball bat and become a home runner. After the death of his father he carves his own magical baseball bat from the wood of a lightning-struck tree, names it Wonderboy and hankers after the bright lights of the baseball leagues in Chicago. Years pass and Hobbs reaches a crossroads in his life. He leaves his farmgirl (GLENN CLOSE – a role which won the actress an Oscar nomination) behind to seek fame and fortune after being discovered by sports reporter Max Mercy (ROBERT DUVALL). However, his rite-of-passage is brought abruptly to an end by a mysterious temptress (BARBARA HERSHEY) and a bullet with his name on. The story continues 16 years later, with Hobbs’ mysterious reappearance as an aged rookie at the dugout steps of the New York Knights. So begins his rise to glory with the Knights and his eventual fall from grace.

Redford is fine on his return to acting, living out the fantasies of every person who ever wanted to be a sports star. The Natural is a lush picture, a welcome addition to the glut of movies about baseball and one of director Levinson’s most idiosyncratic works.

production details
USA | 137 minutes | 1984

Director: Barry Levinson
Writers: Roger Towne, Phil Dusenberry (based on the novel by Bernard Malamud)

Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs
Glenn Close as Iris Gaines
Kim Basinger as Memo Paris
Wilford Brimley as Pop Fisher
Robert Duvall as Max Mercy
Richard Farnsworth as Red Blow
Barbara Hershey as Harriet Bird
Robert Prosky as The Judge
Michael Madsen as Bump Bailey
Joe Don Baker as The Whammer
Darren McGavin as Gus Sands
Mike Starr as Boone