The Natural (1984)

Film and Plot Synopsis

When an unknown middle-aged batter named Roy Hobbs appears out of nowhere, he takes a losing 1930s baseball team to the top of the league. Using a special bat he made from a tree that lightening once struck, Hobbs lives the fame he could have had earlier in his life. However, as an up and coming pitcher in his youth, a young woman shot him which forever changed his career.

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‘The Natural’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
The Natural (1984)Roy Hobbs is The Natural. Based on the bestselling novel by Bernard Malamud, Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, a young farmboy raised by his father not to push a ploy but to throw a baseball harder than any mortal ever could. Roy’s neighbor, Iris, is a sweet farmgirl raised to be Roy’s main squeeze. When Roy is about twelve, his father keels over from a heart attack apparently digging his own grave while tending the flowers. That night, during a healthy electric storm, Zeus sends a lightning bolt down and explodes a tree outside Roy’s bedroom window.

In the morning, Roy takes it as a sign, carves out a beautiful bat and names it “Wonderboy”. He grows up on the farm and, when he’s 18, gets a call from the Chicago Cubs for a tryout. He tells Iris and as a parting gift, they make sweet love in the hayloft. Roy boards the train with his elderly agent, Sam. On the same train, reporter Max Mercy tells the best slugger in baseball, The Whammer, about someone going around killing an Olympic athlete and a college football player with one silver bullet each. The Whammer is preoccupied with an attractive passenger, Harriet Bird.

At a train stopover, the passengers disembark and attend a nearby carnival where The Whammer slams homerun after homerun while Roy, at a different event, knocks over milk bottle after milk bottle. Sam makes a bet with Max that Roy can strike The Whammer out in three straight pitches. They go across the tracks and in three straight pitches, Roy is treated to a “Casey At The Bat” moment, drawing the praise by the locals as well as the fetching Harriet Bird. Back on the train, Harriet and Roy talk deep into the night, where Roy tells Harriet he intends to be “the best that ever played the game”.

The next day at the hotel before the tryout, Roy gets a call to meet Harriet at her room in the hotel. Roy knocks and enters. Harriet is dressed in all black and asks if Roy truly will be the greatest of all-time. Roy says he will and she immediately shoots him…

Sixteen years later, we find the manager of the major league New York Knights, Pop Fisher, complaining to his pitching coach, Red Blow, about how bad the perennial-losing Knights are as a team. He’s also upset that if the Knights don’t win the pennant by the end of the year, his sneaky partner, the Judge, will own the Knights. As Pop yells once again at his terrible pitcher, a middle-aged Roy Hobbs walks up and hands the apprehensive Pop his new contract with the Knights to play right-field, signed by the team’s majority owner, The Judge.

Pop’s star right-fielder, Bump Bailey, is the only star on the Knights and is also a total pain-in-the-ass, as well as on the take by the Judge. Pop decides to bench Roy for no good reason, but Roy complies. As Bump continues being a jerk, and Roy gets more anxious and upset to play, Pop and Roy have a blowup. Pop finally allows Roy to have batting practice so Roy and Wonderboy start putting baseball after baseball into the outfield fences, stunning the entire Knights team. Bump makes Pop mad so Roy is sent out to bat for Bump with the game on the line. Pop tells Roy to hit the cover off the ball. Roy smacks the ball to the outfield, knocking in the winning run, and indeed, knocks the cover off the ball. The next day, Bump tries a lot harder to keep his job and runs head-first into the outfield fence where he dies chasing a ball.

As the new star for the Knights, Roy’s natural skills as a batter and his willingness to do anything to win rubs off on the other Knights and they start to win. Roy makes friends with the batboy and they make a bat together, the Savoy Special. Roy is introduced to Pop’s lovely niece, Memo Paris, who is Bump’s ex-girlfriend and a good friend of both an older Max Mercy, as well as gambler, Gus Sands. Roy meets the Judge, who offers Roy money if he’ll lose certain games. Roy tells the Judge he plays to win and leaves, upsetting the Judge and Gus. Max has forgotten about Roy but smells something fishy about his past so he starts digging. In Chicago, the older Iris picks up a paper and realizes Roy is playing in the major leagues now. The Knights are winning when Roy and Memo start dating. Pop tells Roy she’s bad luck but Roy dates her anyway.

The Knights start to lose as Roy goes into a major slump while he and Memo get more serious. In Chicago, as Roy is getting jeered by the crowd, he notices a woman in the stands dressed in white looking like an angel. He hits a towering homerun that breaks the clock in centerfield. As Roy rounds the bases, he looks into the stands but doesn’t see the woman. He gets a note after the game to meet her at a diner. As he walks in, he realizes it was Iris in the stands, where she tells him she didn’t want to see him fail. Roy asks to see her again another time and she agrees.

Roy and the Knights start winning again as he and Memo slow things down, against Memo’s (and Gus’ wishes). Pressure mounts as the Knights get closer to the pennant. The night before a big game, Memo throws a party for the team. While there, she poisons Roy. Roy is rushed to the hospital, where they pump his stomach and come up with a silver bullet. Roy survives but the doctor tells him he has to give up baseball or it will kill him. Roy leaves the hospital that night and tries hitting, only to realize he’s still too hurt to hit the ball.

The Judge shows up with photos provided by Max of Harriet Bird dead by suicide and Roy shot in the hotel room in the past. He offers Roy $10,000 and the threat of going to the press with the photos to throw the last game of the season for the pennant. Iris arrives and tells Roy she’s cheering for him and she has a secret to tell him that has to wait until game time.

The day of the big game, Roy enters the Judge’s office where Gus, Max, and Memo are present. Roy gives the $10,000 back to the Judge and tells them he’s going to hit away. Memo fires a gun but not at Roy. Roy takes the gun and walks out of the office. During the game, Roy cannot hit the ball but he realizes the Knights’ pitcher is throwing the game. Roy threatens him to play it straight. Iris is in the stands and gets Roy a note telling him Roy and Iris’ son is in the stands watching.

Roy gets up to his last at-bat with the game on the line. He hits a towering shot that ends up foul but it breaks Wonderboy. Roy asks the batboy for his bat, the Savoy Special. Roy gets up to bat, two out, two on, strike two,… And Roy hits a homerun deep into the lights, showering the stadium with broken glass, sparks, and the Knights win the pennant. We close with Roy playing catch with his son in the same wheat fields as Roy’s youth far away from the major leagues with Iris smiling nearby.

The End.

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TriStar Pictures released The Natural on May 11, 1984. Barry Levinson directed the film starring Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, and Glenn Close.

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