Natural is a real dramatic baseball movie based on the biography of John Knowles, a renowned baseball player. In order to understand the film well, it is important to have a look at the people who made the film. The film was directed by Barry Levinson and produced by Mark Johnson. It was written by Roger Towne and Phil Dusen berry and stars Roy Hobbs, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close and Kim Basinger. John Knowles character was played by Roy Hobbs.
The music was done by Randy New Man, Edited by Stu Linder and distributed by Tristan Pictures. Natural was released on May 11, 1984 and its running time is 137 minutes. The film was called Natural because the main character Roy Hobbs has a natural baseball talent and the film revolves around his accomplishments and suffering. It was nominated for four academy awards among them first for best supporting actress (Glen Close).
The plot of the film starts by depicting Roy Hobbs as a child, playing with his father in their family farm. While still young his father dies unexpectedly breaking up under a tree. The tree is later cut into two by lightning and Roy Hobbs makes a baseball bat out of the tree. He scribbles a drawing of lightning bolt and the words wonderboy.
At the age of 19, he is given a trial by Chicago cubs as a pitcher. On his way to the Chicago cubs, his train makes a stop at a carnival. At this point Roy is confronted by Joe Don Baker, the top hitter to strike him. He strikes him in front of many people including a sports writer named Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) who records everything and puts it in the paper the following day. He then gets into the train.
Inside the train, Roy Hobbs is seduced by Harriet Byrd (Barbara Hershey), an attractive and an evil woman who thinks that Roy is the best baseball player in the world other than Joe Don Baker. The naive Roy is taken to a hotel room by Harriet Byrd who shoots him and escapes out of the window but luckily he does not die.
After 16 years
The story skips to 16 years later and depicts Roy at age 35. At this age, Roy signs a contract with National league team called the New Yolk Knights to the anger of the team’s gruff manager and co-owner, Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley).The team is held up in the last-place and this makes Pop very angry at being burdened with a “middle-aged rockie” in reference to Roy. Pop gets so worked up that he actually stops Roy from taking part in team practice. He goes ahead and threatens to send Roy to the minors.
However after some time Roy is allowed to practice with the team where he displays an unbelievable hitting ability. In his following game, the team’s celebrity player, Bump Bailey (Michael Madsen), angers Pop with his constant laziness in the field and Roy is told to pinch hit.
Roy is advised by Pop to knock off the ball which he obeys and makes the team to win. Later Bump Bailey, the team’s star dies while running through the fence after a fly ball and Roy becomes team’s starting right fielder and plays very well becoming the team’s star and also making a fortune for the league.
His success makes Max Mercy, the sports writer have a desire to dig deep into his mysterious background. Roy makes it hard for Max to obtain details. After failing to obtain details about Roy, Max starts to spread false rumors that Wonderboy is a loaded bat. This is however disapproved by the league after weighing and measuring the bat and finding that it meets the requirements.
Judge tries to bribe Roy
Roy is called to a meeting by the principle owner of knights, The Judge (Robert Prosky). Earlier on he had been informed by Pop’s assistant, Red (Richard Farnsworth) that the Judge had a concern for the team trailing since Pop wanted to sell his share of the team to his co-owner if the team failed to win national league pennant.
To ensure that the team failed, Judge had secretly given a command to his chief scout to put the team with unknown players like Roy. The Judge got worried later that the unpredicted talent would spoil his plans and tried to bribe Roy but Roy refused.
The first plan having failed Memo Paris (Kim Basinger) is sent to seduce and divert attention of Roy. She is introduced to Roy by Mercy, the reporter, after Mercy takes him to diner. Memo seduces Roy and they begin to go out. Within no time Roy begins to get serious with Memo despite Pop’s warning. At one point the Knights go to Wrigley field in Chicago to compete with the cubs and Roy exhibits a dismal performance.
During his playing, he notices a woman fully clad in white, stand up and lit up by sunshine. This in some way makes him put more effort and he scores. Later on he remembers that the mysterious woman in white was his early day’s sweetheart; Iris (Glenn Close). They later arrange a date at a soda shop where they rekindle their love.
Roy visits iris at her apartment and notices a baseball glove. Out of curiosity he inquires whose glove it was. To his shock, Iris informs him that the glove belongs to her 16 year old son. Roy goes ahead to ask the whereabouts of the boy’s father and Iris informs him that he lives in New York.
Roy becomes a bit intrigued and develops an interest in meeting the boy. Lost in the moment Iris reminds Roy that he has a train to catch. Meeting up with Iris revives Roy and he continues to win for Knights. The team takes the first position and is required to play one game in their final three games to win against Philadelphia Phillies.
Roy is poisoned
Memo Paris manages to poison Roy through an eclair. Days later, Roy wakes up in a hospital bed and discovers that his team lost their final three games. His doctor informs that his stomach lining had been damaged and could tear apart if he continues to play baseball. Despite this warning Roy creeps out of the hospital to take some few swings but collapses in full view of the judge from his office window.
The Judge later appears to increase his offer to pay him $ 20 000 even though he is very sure Roy can’t play. He refuses and Judge threatens to spoil his image of his shooting which he obtained from Mercy and leaves the money at his bedside.
Roy informs Iris when she visits him how he loves Baseball and he enquires if his son is with her in New York. He asks her if she will attend the game but a nurse enters before she gives an answer. Roy returns the money to the judge and he heads to the locker room where he meets Pop and they start chatting. Pop tells Roy that he was one of the best players he has ever coached and a great hitter.
The game commence with the Knights playing with the Pirates. Roy’s efforts are slowed down by a player introduced into the team by Judge and Roy comes to notice he is the player who had been bribed by Judge. He requests him not to throw the game but he replies with a shrug.
Iris Tells a Secret
Without Roy’s knowledge Iris and her son attend the game. Iris however has a message she wants to pass to Roy. She gives the message to an usher who gives it to Roy. The message explains that Iris and her son are at the game. In addition the message goes on to explain that Roy is the father of Iris’ son.
This message makes Roy to put more effort in his game and although his wonderboy bat breaks into two, he is given another bat where he plays well and the team wins the pennant. The screen fades and then shows a wheat field where Roy is playing with his son and Iris is watching from a far.