“Field of Dreams” is a fantasy drama, laced with comical realism that comes in the form of farmer Ray Kinsella constructing a regulation baseball field in the middle of his cornfields, because “the voice” told him to. Quite literally, he begins to hear a voice saying, “If you build it, he will come,” and begins seeing visions of a baseball fields in his corn. Ray has a wife, a daughter, and a mortgage to think about, so many community members view his commitment to this vision as ridiculous. His “quest” of sorts doesn’t end with the field – he travels a long distance to find multiple people, including a reclusive author from the sixties. Ray ultimately draws the 1919 Chicago White Sox to the field to right wrongs from their past and right a relationship from his own past. Ultimately, the story asks, “Will you do what it takes to fix past wrongs?” as Ray not only helps the White Sox find peace by playing baseball again, but finds peace within his own life as he finds peace with his relationship with his father.
It’s hard to pin the film as one specific genre, because there is something that’s comical, moving, and sad about a farmer building a baseball field so a ghostly baseball team can play one last time. Ray changes multiple lives and brings peace to these individuals through his quest; while retaining a positive attitude and a relentless desire to carry his actions through. It’s funny (read: baseball field in the corn), it’s sad (the Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball after throwing the 1919 World Series), and it shows Ray struggling with caring for his family but carrying out his responsibility to the individuals who come to the field.
The story entertains on the basis of one ordinary man doing a few extraordinary things. It’s certainly entertaining that only Ray, his wife, and daughter can see the baseball players but there is also a deeper meaning in that Ray literally gives up his livelihood to build a field and find these individuals and bring them “home,” in a sense. The story is complete and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction; not only is everyone’s life enriched or changed for the better, but Ray’s situation is turning around as you see the cars streaming into the farm to pay to watch baseball – that is exactly the kind of attention that will allow the Kinsella’s to keep their farm.
I think “Field of Dreams” is worthy of award recognition because it deals with a weird plot and some heavy undertones very elegantly. The dialogue is real, the characters relatable, and the story just moving enough that you feel privileged to have watched these characters overcome their obstacles. Ray and his family were well rounded; Ray didn’t come off as crazy and delusional, his wife wasn’t nagging and hysterical at the thought of her husband losing the farm, and their daughter rounded out the family as the sweet, precocious, innocent young kid. Even the antagonists, from Ray’s brother in law who practically talks his sister into selling the farm, to the angry PTA mom who wants Terrance Mann’s book banned, you feel for the struggles of the Kinsella family. They are simply trying to do the right thing for themselves, without interruption from any outside party.
“Field of Dreams” follows the Freytag Pyramid Story Structure pretty well. It has a clear inciting incident in the voice telling Ray to “build it, and they will come.” The rising action deals with him building the field, dealing with opposition from outsiders, and then his search for Terrence Mann and Archie “Moonlight” Graham. Finally, the climax is the men’s return to the farm, where the baseball players are together at last and get to play the game they love again. Mann follows the team into the field to discover something worth writing about again, and at the very last second, Ray’s father appears on the field as the youthful, young baseballer he once was. Ray meets his father on the ground he loved and is able to see his father in a new way. The resolution is, of course, the line of cars coming from town to the farm to partake in America’s pastime and inadvertently pay the Kinsella’s mortgage. I agree with Blake Snyder’s identification of the film as belonging to the “Out of the Bottle” genre. Ray literally brings back the spirits of individuals to fulfill their last wishes. There’s no monster, no superhero drama, and no central “buddy love” going on.
Ray Kinsella is kind of the accidental hero – he was not looking to go on this “quest,” nor did he ever really understand why he was doing what he did. Ray just understood that someone, somewhere was depending on him to deliver the field and bring them to the land they loved. That being said, the characters on the whole are pretty well rounded. They seem so realistic, like Annie Kinsella could be the mom that hosts book club and bakes brownies for the Girl Scout bake sale, but makes sure her daughter Karin invites all the kids in her class to her birthday party. Ray is the reluctant, affable farmer with a penchant for a good baseball game. Terrence Mann is the conflicted former activist who feels that he no longer stands for anything, and is searching to regain his passion. And finally, Shoeless Joe Jackson is a man struggling to what he loves again after a lifetime of being banned. Everyone can relate to these characters and their struggles in some kind of way.
Overall, “Field of Dreams” is one of those movies that makes you want to move to Iowa, buy a farm, and take up baseball as a pastime. It’s a movie about good people doing good things for other people who just need a little help, and it’s a movie about following your intuition even if you don’t really know why. I’d give the film an A – any movie that deals with a man hearing voices, a baseball field on a farm, and a mostly ghostly cast, and deals with it well, certainly deserves an A!