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Barry Levinson's screen interpretation of Bernard Malamud's baseball novel The Natural has its flaws, according to critics. While Malamud's Arthurian symbolism remains, the book's downbeat ending has been scrubbed for a joyous victory, replete with fireworks and personal redemption. And even for a dyed-in-the-wool, book-over-movie-guy, it must be said that there's a visceral quality to Levinson's choice: When Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) jacks that pitch into the scoreboard and it explodes in cascade of sparks, that's the joy of baseball. The lurching stomach, the indrawn breath, the goose bumps you felt when Albert Pujols cracked Brad Lidge's pitch over the wall — that mindless elation is what Levinson captures in his ending. Roy Hobbs' big blast is for the fans of the game as played, not as read. Sorry, Bernard, but it's true. Arguably the greatest baseball-as-metaphor-for-life film, The Natural is screened at St. Louis Union Station (1820 Market Street; 314-421-6655 or tonight as part of the Twilight Under the Train Shed series. The film starts at 8:30 p.m. or thereabouts, and admission is free.
Fri., July 3, 2009

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