Streaming Suggestion: “Searching for Bobby Fischer”

It’s unsettling isn’t it? When you realize there are only so many things you can teach a child and, finally, they are what they are.

I’m double-dipping a bit today, because I’ve already recommended in the not-too-distant-past. But it’s worth recommending again, especially if you’re looking for something in the “Whole Family Friday Night Fun” vein: Searching for Bobby Fischer is streaming on AMAZON PRIME(And, for a reasonable price, available from YOUTUBE and GOOGLE PLAY and ITUNES and VUDU and some others.)

After 7-year-old Josh Waitzken gets hooked on speed chess and becomes a whiz at it, his dad hires an implacable chess master to coach the boy but reassesses his decision when Josh’s once-pleasant hobby turns into a source of anxiety and indignation.

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A couple of things:

Firstly, chess has never — OK, rarely — looked this good. Conrad Hall is one of the medium’s most highly (and justly) revered DP legends, and his cinematographic work here is spectacular. But don’t take my word for it; just watch that trailer a couple of times. Notice how dark it is? How contrasty? Not at all the gauzy, bubble-gum look one would expect with a film like that. And no one — I mean NO ONEdoes rain like Connie Hall. (The “Playing Chess in the Rain” sequence that appears in the trailer is breath-taking. Truly.)

Secondly, Laurence Fishburne vs. Ben Kingsley is every bit as awesome as you’d expect — a truth rendered even more extraordinary by the fact that they have very, very little screen-time together. Instead, that conflict is played out in the battlefield of young Josh’s mind (and psyche). And that means it’s all about Max Pomeranc, the luminous young actor whose performance here earns him a prominent place on the list of “Young Actors Who Manage to Steal and Then to Carry a Film Despite a Cast of Far More Famous Thespians.”

Lastly, don’t be fooled by that plot description, which seems pretty “trite-and-true/sports-film-cliché-ish.” There’s a lot more here than you’d expect.

…while the story might seem a bit formulaic “on paper,” the cinematic reality is rich and vibrant. Particularly worthwhile is the film’s focus on a question with which all parents must grapple at some point in their children’s lives: How much of one’s motivation in helping them succeed is driven by a desire to see them achieve the full measure of their potential, and how much by one’s own ambitions and desires?

I’m deep into Little League season at the moment, so the reminder to avoid living (acting out?) my unfulfilled sports destiny through my kids is a good one.

BONNIE: He’s not afraid of losing. He’s afraid of losing your love. How many ball players grow up afraid of losing their fathers’ love every time they come up to the plate?

FRED: All of them!

BONNIE: He knows you disapprove of him. He knows you think he’s weak. But he’s not weak. He’s decent. And if you or Bruce or anyone else tries to beat that out of him, I swear to God I’ll take him away.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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