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Film: Field of Dreams

"Is this Heaven?"
"No... it's Iowa."

A 1989 film starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta.

It is built on a unique story idea about an Iowa farmer who decides on a whim to build an expensive baseball field.

Ray Kinsella (Costner) is an honest farmer with a nice family, but explains in the prologue that he had a falling out with his father (who was a baseball fanatic) and they were unable to reconcile before his death. One day, Ray was out in his corn field when he hears a voice saying "If you build it, he will come." Surprised, he is later given a day vision that what he is supposed to build is a baseball field, and that "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Liotta) would return from the dead to play baseball. For obvious reasons, Ray is wondering how he could ever get such a bizarre idea. But after a long talk with his wife Annie (Madigan), Ray decides that he wanted to do something outrageous because it feels right and not because he was afraid of what others think.

Barely making a profit as it was, the cost of building the baseball field and the land it takes over puts them financially in trouble. But after a few months Shoeless Joe does appear, bewildered himself but with an honest desire to play some baseball. Eventually more baseball players from that time period who have died return to play another game. Unfortunately Ray and his family are the only ones who see the players, and the bank is looking down on them.

Eventually Ray receives another insight "Ease his pain" and comes to believe that this means he has to track down aging author Terence Mann (Jones) and take him to a baseball game. Even he doesn't have a clue why, but decides to continue acting on these strange impressions.

Field of Dreams has a very strange concept, but what it carries is an underlying metaphor of faith and redemption, along with the simple joy of a father and son playing catch. It is one of Costner's most well known films and also one of James Earl Jones' most famous roles outside of voicing Darth Vader.

It was nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

"Field of Tropes":

  • Adaptation Distillation: In the book, Ray meets his father right away. Terrence Mann in the film is a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo of J. D. Salinger in the book. Ray's goal revolves around his twin brother.
  • Adaptation Expansion: There was no book banning scene in the book. The entire scene was created to give Amy Madigan's character something to do.
  • Arc Words: "If you build it, he will come."
    • Also probably one of the biggest examples of Memetic Mutation in film, being one of the most referenced and parodied lines out there.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Baseball, for Ray and his dad.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: Ray and Mann pick up the younger Moonlight Graham while driving through the Midwest and take him to the field so he finally gets a chance to play baseball.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Annie is very nice and supportive of Ray, despite nearly bankrupting his farm to make a baseball field. Yet when a Moral Guardian accuses her husband of being un-american for supporting Terence Mann, she's willing to kick her ass.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Ray, out of desperation, tries to kidnap Terence with a finger in his jacket. Terence isn't fooled for a second.
  • Chekhov's Skill: While the ghosts appear in the prime of their baseball careers, they retain the memories and skills throughout their entire lives. Fortunately, for Karin, Moonlight Graham spent the majority of his life as a doctor.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Terrence Mann does this at Fenway Park.
    Ray Kinsella So, what do you want?
    Terrence Mann I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, write again, be a leader. I want them to start thinking for themselves. I want my privacy.
    Ray Kinsella I mean, what do you want? [Gestures toward concession stand.]
    Terrence Mann Oh. Dog and a beer.
    Ray Kinsella Two.
  • Game of Nerds: Terence Mann
    • Moonlight Graham also applies, he is a doctor after all.
  • Film of the Book: Based on the novel Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Graham steps off the field to save Karin's life, at the cost of being able to play on the field again.
  • Hippie Van: The Kinsellas are shown to have been very liberal hippie-types in their youth (both went to Berkeley, both were fans of a radical author named Terence Mann, Ray jokes that his major was "the 60's"). True to their roots, Ray drives a VW bus.
  • Irony: Moonlight's sacrifice fly means he still hasn't gotten an official at bat against major leaguers, but hey, he got an RBI and a plate appearance.
    • You could also read it as God doing a bit of psychotherapy to help Moonlight come to terms with his one major regret.
  • Magic Realism
  • Manly Tears: Ray has to fight back some tears when he asks his father's ghost for some time to play catch.
    • In a meta sense, this movie is infamous among sports fans for making guys tear up watching the finale.
  • Meaningful Echo: Combined with a Meaningful Name
    "Moonlight" Graham: Tell me, Ray Kinsella. Is there enough magic in the moonlight to make my wish come true?
    • When Ray hears "If you build it, he will come", Ray assumes that "he" is Shoeless Joe Jackson. When those Arc Words are said for the last time, by Jackson himself, the "he" being referred to is revealed to be someone else entirely.
  • Melancholy Moon
  • Monochrome Casting: One of the criticisms leveled at the film is that apparently baseball is just as segregated in the afterlife as it was in the real-life early 20th century.
  • Moral Guardians: The townspeople who wish to ban the work of Terence Mann.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The famously reclusive author Terence Mann was the famously reclusive author J. D. Salinger in the original book, but Salinger threatened to sue if he was featured in any adaptation of the novel. Also counts as a Race Lift.
  • Offscreen Afterlife
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Only believers can see them.
  • Posters Always Spoil: The Japanese poster described the film as a man who is on a question to meet with the ghost of his baseball playing father. It was sort of a cultural shift in focus, since the Japanese always emphasized ancestry.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In the novel, Ray builds the field bit by bit (starting with the left field); in the movie, Ray builds the entire field all in one go. Plus, the movie focuses more on the magic of the field, the romanticism of baseball, and Ray's relationship with his father. It gets rid of confusing plot elements from the book such as Ray's identical twin brother Richard, and a depressing storyline with a supposedly ex-Cub named Eddie Scissons.
    • They also changed J.D. Salinger to Terrence Mann when it became apparent that Salinger would sue, making the adaptation both financially and legally pragmatic.
  • Precision F-Strike: Timothy Busfield clearly mouths "What the fuck?" when Burt Lancaster crosses the gravel.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: Moonlight Graham
  • Scenery Porn: The field itself was built on two separate properties to allow for uninhibited sunset shots, several scenes set during "Magic Hour" (very late twilight) were actually shot over the course of several days to preserve the lighting. Also makes effective use of the Driftless Area to represent the Eastern U.S.
  • Shout-Out: "As a small boy, he had a bat named Rosebud."
  • Strawman Has a Point: The closest the film has to an antagonist is Ray's brother-in-law Mark. Until Doc/Moonlight saved Karin's life, he couldn't see the ghosts. So, from his perspective, Ray—an inexperienced farmer—mowed his field to build a baseball diamond with no other means of supporting his family. He was concerned with having his sister and niece being bankrupt from Ray's field.
  • Strawman Political: The Moral Guardians.
    "And I say SMUT, and filth like this has no place in our schools!"
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Moonlight Graham was in fact a ballplayer who appeared in only one MLB game, before becoming a doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota. The film takes some liberties with his story. Graham died in 1965, but producer Francis Ford Coppola wanted to see "The Godfather" on a marquee so Ray goes back to 1972 to find him. Additionally, while it's true that Graham did not get a chance to bat, he played two innings on defense instead of one.
    • Ray Liotta hits right-handed. Apparently TPTB felt Liotta looked too awkward hitting lefty like Shoeless Joe Jackson did. Liotta was apparently not happy with the decision.
    • The degree of Shoeless Joe Jackson's culpability in the Black Sox Scandal remains controversial to this day. It is known that he attended meetings of the fixers and that he took the money.
    • Also, unlike what both this movie and the previous year's Eight Men Out claim, after he was expelled, he never played under "a made up name in some 12th rate league".
      • The reason for that last mix-up is probably the result of a story told well after his playing days. Jackson was the proprietor of a liquor store, and one day Ty Cobb (hall of fame player) and Grantland Rice (legendary sportswriter) walked in to make a purchase. Joe never made any sign that he recognized them, even though they had crossed paths before during their playing days. Finally, Cobb had to ask:
    Cobb: Don't you know me Joe?
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Ray is seeking the approval of his father.
  • You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Sort of. Doc Graham knows something is up with Ray, when he asks him if he's "Moonlight" Graham.
    Doc Graham: No one's called me "Moonlight" Graham in 50 years.

Family BusinessFilms of the 1980sFood of the Gods 2
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Dead Poets SocietyAcademy AwardMy Left Foot
The Dark KnightHugo AwardEdward Scissorhands
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alternative title(s): Field Of Dreams
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