1988, Music

Bull Durham (1988, Ron Shelton)

Somehow, despite growing up a baseball fan, and despite having seen a Tin Cup (which is the baseball Bull Durham, right?), I missed Bull Durham until now. I think I saw a scene sometime in my teens and decided I had watched it so never thought I should.

This movie is now 30 years old and perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how liberated Sarandon’s character is. I’m surprised it wasn’t more controversial at the time, to have independent, sex-obsessed, intellectual woman at the heart of a story about minor league baseball. (I guess the rationale for having her in the movie is what happens at the end.) I honestly cannot think of another major Hollywood film from the 1980s off the top of my head with a main character like this. (That doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist, but I do feel like it’s a unique thing.)

The film is consistently funny and though I was aware of some of the most notable lines and scenes – my girlfriend quotes Bull Durham as much as she quotes any movie ever made – I still found the film consistently funny, even through some of its most dramatic moments.

For a film written by a former minor league baseball player, there seemed to be two really weird failures of baseball minutia which I became obsessed with during the film: would a player really be called up from single A and how would a player be called up to singe A? It turns out that players are fairly regularly called up directly from single A. And it also turns out that the Carolina League, in which the film is set, is “advanced A” which is above other forms of class A. Incidentally, the real Durham Bulls are a AAA club. (You don’t care about this, I know, but I sure did.)

I appreciate how minor league the whole thing is, not just because I am a fan of minor league baseball but because it adds a great deal of authenticity to the ridiculousness of everything. A player can get married on a baseball diamond in a minor league stadium and it’s believable. That would never fly in a film about the majors.

The film is definitely more on the romantic side of romantic comedy in its final act than I would prefer, but I understand that there is an audience for that. And I think three’s enough pretty classic scenes and lines here to make this one of the better sports comedies of its time.


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