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Theme Tuesday - Penny Marshall - A League of Their Own

In honor of one of the few American female filmmakers that regular people could name, I will be watching all of the works of Penny Marshall, who passed away in late 2018, for January 2019.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a movie this effortlessly feel-good and entertaining. Penny Marshall made sure that all the actresses could convincingly play baseball. Lori Petty threw more pitches than most Major League players and apparently all bruises or injuries you see in the film are real. This is also the film that Marshall really comes to her own as a director. She has always had a gift with working with actors and nearly every one of them gets her or his moment. Jon Lovitz, a Marshall favorite, disappears ten minutes into the movie, but his bitchiness and no-nonsense attitude are indelible. Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna are a veritable Laurel and Hardy, with an easy chemistry that does not betray Madonna’s misery (she wrote a widely-publicized note detailing her misery). Tom Hanks is sexist and piggish, but he plays mean so hilariously well that it’s not a surprise his most famous line “There’s no crying in baseball!” has made it into the popular imagination. The performances of Geena Davis and Lori Petty as talented sisters with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry are almost overshadowed by everyone else, but their relationship was convincing, and I loved how Lori Petty’s low self-esteem and eagerness to prove herself contrasted nicely with Davis’ poise.

Penny Marshall works with big budgets and a lot of time to plan her movies. The period detail is lovingly rendered, down to the true-to-the-time-period wool uniforms the women had to wear even in 100 degree heat. DP Miroslav Ondricek also knows how to shoot period pieces (Amadeus, Valmont, The World According to Garp) and the crowd scenes are especially well-done, conveying the excitement of watching an actually good baseball game. While many liberties are taken with the historical accuracy of the events depicted, Marshall deftly gets to the joy that many women must have felt watching these women do something so different from what their husbands, fathers and brothers wanted them to do.

 

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