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« Review: "The Little Hours" | Main | C O N S I D E R - Actors of 2017, 2nd Qtr »
Sunday
Jul022017

A League of Their Own, Pt. 4 - The World Series

Here is the conclusion of our 25th anniversary retrospective of A League of Their Own!

Part 1 introduced us to the team and Part 2 showed us their success and struggles on the field. In Part 3, the sibling rivalry between Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty) got Kit traded to the Racine Belles and the return of her husband from the war caused an exhausted Dottie to quit the team. Where will that leave the Rockford Peaches as they go on to the first all-women World Series?

Part 4 by Chris Feil

1:30:15 - It’s the first game of the first AAGPBL World Series and it’s our beloved Rockford Peaches against the Racine Belles. And wouldn’t you know Doris has some fawning fans in the stands (including “that guy” actor Joey Slotnick in his film debut)!

1:31:03 - The series has been tight with the Peaches and Belles taking three games each. League loves a montage, whether it details the team’s growing bonds or provides some fun period detail. Here it builds the pressure and excitement for the final deciding game. We never learn much about the other teams in the league, but those Belles sure do seem formidable.

1:31:22 Jimmy rounds the girls up before the game, but is struck by the stench of Alice’s socks - she thinks it’s bad luck to change or wash them between games. Baseball athletes are a notoriously superstitious lot, so this is a neat baseball detail to sneak in that has nothing to do with the sport itself.

1:32:05 Jimmy leads the team in a pregame prayer. Like most of his attempts at sincerity, it’s clunky, crass, and self-congratulatory, but nevertheless his true feelings shine through.

1:32:47

GOOOOO PEACHES!!

Something about the framing here just makes you want to reach in and join in the comraderie. Doesn't it feel like we're one of the Peaches?

Everyone please rise:

1:33:15 As noted in our previous installments, Penny Marshall brilliantly juxtaposes quiet moments with the most rousing to build excitement. Paired with the prayer before it, this moment is the quiet before the storm. And fitting we see this match begin with the National Anthem, as the film as about to become a visceral embodiment of a great game start-to-finish. Amid this Americana, we’re also given some of the film’s most quietly beautiful images.

1:33:30 Imagine going to a summer baseball game in a suit.

1:33:38 We see the whole Peaches lineup as Kit looks on, visually disassociated from her current team. How much of her heart was left in Rockford?

1:34:25 Jimmy thinks he is pep-talking that shifty Alice, only for Dottie to reveal she’s back on the team! Jimmy makes her work for it, but we know from the look on his happy surprise on his face that he’s grateful she’s back. The two fake ambivalence about teaming up once again, and the Dottie gives the sass right back to him. Peace out, Alice.

1:35:35 Stillwell Angel gets what’s coming to him. If Jimmy can take down the true villain of this film, the Peaches can certainly beat the Belles.

1:36:15 We’ve already bemoaned this film’s lack of Oscar nominations but this montage sequence makes a strong case for a deserved editing nomination for Adam Bernardi and George Bowers. The amount of coverage and shot setups alone is somewhat mind-boggling. The sequence achieves a few things here and more:

  1. rapidly takes us through several close innings
  2. builds immense tension for what a nailbiter the game is with some crucial play-by-plays
  3. embodies the feeling of being both in the stands watching and a participant on the field.

And if you’re not even a baseball fan, it does a lot to get you invested in the game aside from what it means for the Peaches.

1:36:30 “You’re out, Brenda. You. Are. Out.” So many hidden gems and quotables tucked away in every corner of this film.

1:37:23 Doris makes a catch to end the inning and her stans in the stands cheer. The Belle’s are ahead 1-0.

1:37:31 Between innings, Jimmy does a little better this time in dealing with Evelyn’s screwups. But his labors in being nice make for comic gold. For as much as Hanks is universally beloved for his compassionate side, the exasperated outbursts in his filmography are just as iconic.

1:38:47 DRINKING GAME - Take a shot everytime the camera cuts to Tea Leoni in this sequence.

1:40:07 The mounting pressures of the final game plus the estrangement from Dottie and playing against her old teammates has Kit feeling some kind of way. I know opinions of Lori Petty’s work here are all across the map, but it’s moments like this that make this a strong performance for me. Conveying all of that interweaving baggage in mere seconds, Petty is so emotionally present.

1:40:27 Dottie scores a single (Tea Leoni! *shot*) sending Doris and Mae home. The Peaches are now ahead by one! The announcer says “Bite me on the butt and call me an apple!” If I had a nickel...

1:42:11 The catcher calls Ellen Sue a queen as if that’s an insult.

1:41:43 Dottie spots Kit in the dugout going through it after a bad inning. League belongs to the upper echelon of sports films for how it makes the game personal on more than one level. We’re given remarkably little “overcoming adversity” or “virtue of the sport” cliches in favor of something more complicated - there’s no outcome of this game that comes without some kind of pain for them and the audience.

1:43:00 But if you thought for a second Dottie would throw the game for the sake of her sister, she flies herself into the dugout to catch a rogue ball and send the batter out. Risk of physical injuries be damned, she is winning this game.

1:43:38 With two outs for the Belles, Kit is up at bat. The sisters size each other up and Dottie is looking way more confident than the shaken Kit. Call it ruthlessness or smart sportsmanship, Dottie directs Ellen Sue to throw for Kit’s weakness: the ever-treacherous “high fast ones”.

1:45:15 Two strikes for Kit, but she smacks a third pitch nails the third pitch into the outfield. Get the damn ball, Evelyn!

1:45:53 In one final gesture of opposing teams and sisters, Kit shoves her way into home...

1:46:02 ... and Dottie drops the ball. Kit is safe and the Racine Belles are the World Series champions!

1:46:46 As disappointment hits the Peaches hard, it’s Pride that washes over Dottie’s face as the crowd chants Kit’s name and her teammates carry her on their shoulders.

1:47:34 Back in the locker room:

“My mother always used to say, if at first you don’t succeed-”
“That’s easy for you to say, you don’t have to spend the next six months in Saskatchewan.”

Alice, always the trombone chorus of Debbie Downership.

1:48:05 Kit signs autographs for some young fans, still in her uniform. Not only is she a champion on her own terms, but she finally gets to be the role model. Dottie watches without interjecting, allowing her little sister to fully take in the moment.

1:48:55 Kit begins the reconciliation with attempted apology for colliding into Dottie, which Dottie shrugs off as being part of the game. Quickly they fall into an easy rhythm, though it’s clear they’ve moved onto similar wavelengths. Dottie says she’s quitting the league and Kit evades a question about returning home for the holidays, so it appears they may not have much time to be in the same room together. Quite smart how the screenplay makes this a now or never moment for the two to say everything they need to.

1:50:31 Geena Davis is dressed in yellow - the two sisters once again match, a united front after being stuck opposing shades.

“Thank you for getting me into the league, Dottie”
“You got yourself in the league. I got you on the train.”

Perhaps being a youngest child myself, Kit has always been more of a point of entry for me in the film than the dotingly tough Dottie. I understand being the one dragged around and minded, having Kit’s rather bare need for approval from the elder sibling. While Dottie’s affirmation of Kit’s abilities is the nod all youngest children want to hear, it’s worth remembering just being put on the damn train. That reverence is hard to shake, though.

“Play great.”
“Like you.”

1:51:08 A final embrace of several. Just one of those goodbyes where you subconsciously think if you keep hugging you won’t have to actually say goodbye, ya know.

1:51:55 Jimmy was offered a position playing again instead of coaching. He turned them down: “I already got a job.” Bless.

 

1:52:55 Dottie yells across to Kit as she boards the Belles’ bus to lay off the dreaded high ones. Kit’s “I like the high ones” is now her own confident proclamation of independence.

1:53:19 As the bus drives off to the women singing the All-American League theme song, we flash forward back to Dottie’s return to the field.

1:53:55 Who spots Dottie first but our favorite sassy twosome, Doris and All-The-Way Mae. Kudos to the casting director for finding such believable modern day counterparts for the younger stars!

1:54:25 Reintroductions! It’s Doctor Helen Haley now! She’s a doctor! As onlookers comment on Dottie’s one-season career, Alice admits that Dottie’s presence means good luck. One wonders if Alice improved in skill or temperament over her career, but we’re left in the dark.

Marla is saved for last, justly given a spotlight after the second half of the film unceremoniously drops her. As they catch up, Dottie tells her that Bob recently passed away. Maybe her grief explains some of her trepidations about making the trip.

1:56:00 Stillwell Angel! Yes he is a demon spawn, but I’ve honestly always felt some affection for this little gay boy surrounded by women (which is essentially how I always viewed A League of Their Own as a child). And if you doubted that Stillwell grew to be a homosexual, Exhibit A: that bowtie.

1:57:01 Hans Zimmer cues the horn section for the dearly departed Jimmy Dugan. Zimmer’s score is quite touching and reverential here but his work overall on the film is quite solid. This was long before his work descented into the BRAHHMMMosphere.

This whole coda to the film is clouded in the spectre of death, but the heartening angle of the Hall of Fame is how it suggests a lingering legacy rather than empty demise.

1:57:39 At the opening of the AAGPBL’s wing of the museum, Doris demands that Ira Lowenstein be the one to cut the ribbon. May we all someday similarly recognize the efforts of David Strathairn on our lives.

1:58:46 In case you weren’t crying yet...

1:59:00 Dottie spots a photo of her and Kit all smiles. Wait - we haven’t been reunited with Kit yet! We try not to imagine the worst.

1:59:05 Ellen Sue stands above the crowd to begin the All-American League anthem. One of the many gifts of the film is that it always knows the right emotional moment to drop a sing along on us.

“Batter up, hear that call
The time has come for one and all
To play ball

“We’re the members of
The All-American League
We come from cities
Near and far

“We’ve got Canadians
Irish ones and Swedes

“We’re all for one
We’re one for all
We’re All American”

1:49:42 Kit emerges, followed by a giant family. Across the room, the sisters see eachother. While it’s clear they’ve gone to live separate lives, their embitterments didn’t follow. More hugs ensue. Note how the elder Dottie cradles her younger siblings head just as Geena Davis did.

2:00:43 Team photo alert!

2:01:15 Madonna sends out with “This Used To Be My Playground” as the credits ingeniously list the actors by their team starting position. No shade to the Immaculate One (the song is still so beautiful), but the song ends the film on a rather somber note, on the funereal side of reflective. It does however add to the sense of reverence for the women we’ve met and the actual players of the AAGPBL.

2:05:49 But the film does save one final moment for our diva worship with this badass player angry over the ref’s call. Take me out to her ball game.

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Reader Comments (7)

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN denies us a curtain call of the actors and actresses we've been watching for 2 hours. We see old guy with cigar who isn't Jon Lovitz, old guy with scissors who isn't David Strathairn, and all these old ladies. (Adult Stillwell, I'll admit, is pretty good.) It's accurate and realistic, mostly well-cast, and we can't complain about young people in bad prosthetic makeup, but I feel like I'm missing something. We get a solemn Madonna song, and some earlier flashbacks interspliced with Hall of Fame exhibition baseball. It's reverent but very sedate, and slightly depressing. It ends on a low note.

If you like, compare it to the end of the live action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which was thoroughly unnecessary as a whole, but gave the audience some satisfaction at the end by introducing us to the now-human Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Audra McDonald, and so on. (I remember seeing Dan Stevens and Stanley Tucci at the beginning, and the backs of several heads to save the surprise for the end.) The curtain call makes you feel like what you saw was at least building up to something. It ends on a high note.

Such is the power of the curtain call.

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

wait...is adult stillwell francis from pee-wee's big adventure?

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Par-
It is! Lol, didn't realize it until you said it.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCal

May we all someday similarly recognize the efforts of David Strathairn on our lives.
OMG. haha. Thank you for this sentence.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I cannot handle adult Stillwell looking at the picture of his mom. It's too real

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBen

This film was severely changed from the original shooting script, which pretty much explains Marla's sudden departure and Madonna's lack of an appearance compared to her marketing presence. There was the afore mentioned relationship between Dottie and Jimmy (which was the source of much of the tension of Dottie in the league in the original script), a subplot involving Marla being pregnant and being traded (and subsequently nearly losing the baby) and more scenes surrounding the Suds Bucket sequence and more of a backstory for Mae. The original cut of the film was over four hours long, and was trimmed drastically when the decision was made to focus more on the sisters element in the third act than anything else.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDarbicus

Even after the *umpteenth* viewing, I still can't make up my mind whether Dottie dropped the ball on purpose or not. I think I lean 51% "not," but it's fascinating either way. And there's no doubt she has no regrets, despite the fact that at some level she clearly really did want to win.

She's such a fascinating, if frustrating character, in that respect. How can she be so competitive in one moment and so content take herself out ot it the next?

July 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

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