RETRO REVIEW – ‘A League of Their Own’

Written by J.T. Johnson

4-stars

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1992
DIRECTOR: Penny Marshall
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Miroslav Ondricek
WRITERS: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

“A League of Their Own” is about real history while it tells a fictionalized story about two sisters named Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty) who joined the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The movie is an emotional and often comedic look at a group of women who kept baseball alive while the men went into service during World War II.

The first thing that should be noted about the film is that, like most films based on true history, it takes certain liberties to tell a dramatic story. What the film does best is tell a story that few know about. One of the great things that began to happen when WWII occurred was that women began to get out of the kitchen and make their own way in the world.

At the beginning of the film, not many people warm up to the idea of a women’s league (in reality, it was quite popular from the start) but after they see that the girls have talent, the seats begin to fill up. Dottie is a big reason for this because she a genuinely great ballplayer. In the meantime, her whiny sister, Kit, thinks that Dottie is holding her back.

One of the best performances in the film belongs to Tom Hanks. He plays the fictional Jimmy Dugan, a character loosely based on real-life Baseball Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx. Jimmy is a drunk and washed-up ball player who could care less about the new league. All he wants to do is get his paycheck so that he can drink more. Hanks, who was already established as a comedic actor at this point, has no problem tempering the alcoholic and depressed Jimmy with some hysterical moments.

The best scene in the film is the now famous “There’s no crying in baseball” scene. There are times, though, where it does get serious. With this film, audiences finally got to see more of Hanks’ dramatic side that acts as foreshadowing for later films like “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13.” One of the best setups is a dramatic scene in which Jimmy has to inform one of the girls in the locker room that their husband has been killed in the war. Hanks and all of the actresses involved handle the scene flawlessly.

Davis is great as Dottie. She gives the character all of the strength and emotional vulnerability that she needs. Davis never over or underplays a scene. Like Hanks, she perfectly handles the dramatic and the comedic. It was also great to see that the character never lets any of the stuff go to her head. Everything her character does is for the benefit of the league that she is reluctant to say has become an important part of her life.

The only role the film could deal without is Dottie’s little sister, Kit. Petty is absolutely annoying as she continues to whine throughout the entire film. She is jealous of her more talented sister and she seems to only want fame. Kit is there only to add more drama to a film that already has this covered.

Beyond this small inconvenience is a compelling drama that tells a story about something that really happened. It is funny and emotional without putting any emphasis on either. It is a heartwarming love letter to all the women who played for the AAGPBL. No one should deny themselves this film.

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