The true tale of Jim Morris, a middle-aged high school science teacher who loses a bet with his students, tries out for the majors, and makes it. Though The Rookie was advertised as a kids’ movie, the script never condescends or collapses into silliness, and Morris’s tale is genuinely warming. Americans love the triumph of the underdog against all odds (and what’s more intimidating than growing old?), and The Rookie doesn’t disappoint in this regard: who would believe that a thirty-five-year-old rookie could throw a hundred miles per hour?
The most New Orleans–ified film ever made, The Big Easy is tipsy on everything that made the pre-Katrina hub famous: sunlit bayous, dancing at Tipitina’s, voodoo in Storyville, Mardi Gras floats, institutional corruption, and an overall Cajun flavor so palpable you can taste the pepper in the gumbo. In addition to providing an authentic N’Awlins feel and foot-tapping creole-Cajun-zydeco soundtrack, this flavorful Jim McBride movie also offers Dennis Quaid’s irresistible grin (in its way as life-loving as the city’s reputation), and a foreplay scene (with Ellen Barkin) that just doesn’t quit, no matter how many repeated viewings (ahem) some of us may sneak.
Frank and Cathy (Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore) are the perfect 1950s couple: he’s a successful businessman; she’s a beautiful, impeccable hostess with a flawless home, two well-behaved children, and a loyal housekeeper. The facade cracks when Cathy catches Frank kissing another man—and then finds solace in the sympathetic companionship of her gardener, a courteous, intelligent man who happens to be black. This movie is an homage to the Douglas Sirk dramas of the 1950s, right down to the typeface over the opening credits and the swelling Elmer Bernstein score, and it’s a dead-serious “women’s film” melodrama. Gloved hands, cocktails before dinner, crinoline skirts, and the ubiquity of casual prejudice—director Todd Haynes’s film is almost a deliberate attempt to make the nervy movie about the failure of middle-class surfaces that audiences should’ve had the chance to see in 1956, but that the studios were too timid to make.