The Natural 1984 ***

Alongside Out of Africa, The Natural represents the last significant entries in Robert Redford’s career as a top movie star. Later to reinvent himself as a guru of indie-film-making via Sundance, Redford was smart enough to forge a career when audiences were no longer blown away by his golden boy looks. But in his heyday, he was happy to trade on them, and this adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s novel is a serious-minded baseball story that elevates Roy Hobbs (Redford) to near Messianic-levels. Glenn Close plays his sweet girlfriend, Barbara Hershey is a predictably dark femme fatale, and Robert Duvall dispenses homilies. The problem with The Natural is that for all the sumptuous period detail evoked by Barry Levinson’s direction, the feel-good ending, straight out of a late Rocky movie, is completely at odd with the book’s conclusion, and takes the King Arthur theme far too literally. With a magic bat called Wonderboy instead of Excalibur, The Natural is a literate and intelligent film that sells-out at the crucial moment.


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