|SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER (1993)|
William H. Macy
|"Maybe it's better not to be the best. Then you can lose and it's OK."|
|Time: 110 mins.|
Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.
I really can't say why I find this movie so engrossing, but every time it shows up on television I end up watching it. I've seen it so many times, I can't even remember if I saw it initially in the theater or not. What I do know, is that this is a well-acted, intelligently written and wonderfully shot little picture about a young boy with a special gift the ability to play chess like a master. One would think a movie about chess would be as slow as molasses and boring to boot, but this flick grabs you and just refuses to let go. The main reason being the unbelievably honest acting of the film's lead Max Pomeranc. I don't think I have ever seen a more natural performance by such a young child in all my life. Every glance, shrug and protracted silence are dead-on behaviors for a seven-year-old. The audiences' enjoyment of this film pivots on his character and Pomeranc is wonderful. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well. Ultimately, this is a quiet film about using your gifts without compromising yourself or your values. A hard lesson for adults to learn from a child.
The film begins with Josh (Pomeranc) and his mother Bonnie (Allen) walking through Central Park and coming upon speed chess players, taking on comers for cash. His mother tries to move him along, not wanting him to associate with men of this type, but Josh is enthralled. Even though he's never played, he saunters up and asks to play. The fact that he wins is a stunning surprise to all. His father Fred (Mantegna) doesn't believe it, until he's soundly beaten by his son, who's only barely paying attention to the game. His parents decide to get Josh a tutor to help foster his talent. He's been playing with Vinnie (Fishburne) one of the men from the park and they want to get him formal training. Bruce Pandolfini (Kingsley) originally refuses, but once he sees the way Josh thinks, he can't refuse. Plus he needs the money.
Bonnie thinks Bruce is a crook. Bruce and Fred think Vinnie is ruining Josh's chances of becoming the next Bobby Fischer by teaching him bad chess tactics. Josh just wants to be a kid and is scared of not only losing, but of losing his father's love if he does. It eventually comes to a head when Bruce bullies Josh, trying to get him to understand what it takes to win. That unless he hates his opponent, seeing them as the enemy they are, he will never become a grand master. Bonnie is horrified by this, refusing to allow Bruce or her husband to remove the inherent goodness of her son. Josh just wants to play the game, he doesn't really care if he wins or loses. He just loves to play and have fun with the friends he's making along the way. Ultimately the adults learn that the final choice of how Josh will use this gift is up to him.
SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER brings you inside the mind of genius and the expectations generated from this sort of discovery. What everyone begins to forget is that Josh is just a kid who wants to have fun and be loved by his parents. His gift comes so naturally to him, that he just doesn't understand all of the hoopla. Especially for his father, he sees in him a potential for greatness he himself never had the chance to attain. These parents are just as bad as Little League dads. In between the family drama, Josh narrates the tale of Bobby Fischer, the chess uberkid who was the best player in the world and then fell off the face of the planet. One is to draw your own conclusions what exactly is the price of greatness? Is becoming a champion worth it if you lose your soul in the bargain? This is an intriguing tale that really makes you think about life and the sacrifices people make to succeed. With great cinematography, dead-on acting and an intriguing story, SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER is one of those underrated movies that deserves a look. They actually made chess interesting, so you know this must be a movie worth seeing.