Searching for Bobby Fischer
Searching for Bobby Fischer is a 1993 film based on the life of prodigy chess player Joshua Waitzkin, played by Max Pomeranc. Adapted from the book of the same name by Joshua's father Fred, the film was written and directed by Steven Zaillian. In the United Kingdom the film was released under the title Innocent Moves. In this film, Josh Waitzkin's family discovers that he possesses a gift for chess and they seek to nurture it. They hire a strict instructor, Bruce Pandolfini (played by Ben Kingsley) who aims to teach the boy to be as aggressive as Bobby Fischer. The title of the film is a metaphor about the character's quest to adopt the ideal of Fischer and his determination to win at any price. Josh is also heavily influenced by Vinnie, a "speed chess" hustler (Laurence Fishburne) whom he met in Washington Square Park. The two instructors differ greatly in their strategies, and Pandolfini is upset that Josh continues to learn from Vinnie. The main conflict in the film arises when Josh refuses to adopt Fischer's misanthropic frame of reference. Josh then goes on to win on his own terms with the kind of gracious sportsmanship that Fischer rejects. Some famous chess players have
Release Date: August 11, 1993
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"Searching for Bobby Fischer" is the true story of a 7-year-old chess prodigy whose father at first can't believe his son is such a remarkable player and then basks in the limelight as the boy begins winning national children's tournaments. Early in the film, Bonnie Waitzkin (Joan Allen) finds herself repeatedly dragged to New York's Washington Square Park by her son Josh (Max Pomeranc), who wants to watch "speed-chess," a daily ritual of men in the park. There they meet up with Vinnie (Laurence Fishburne), a player who encourages Josh's talent. That night, Bonnie tells her sportswriter-husband Fred (Joe Mantegna) about the experience, and he decides to test Josh in a game. At first, Josh is reluctant to play sincerely; he doesn't want to embarrass his dad. But then, in a comic sequence, he shows his stuff. Eventually, Fred hires a passionate chess master, Bruce Pandolfini (Ben Kingsley), to tutor his son, which leads to the tournaments. A conflict develops as the playoffs get more and more serious, and Bruce tries to persuade Josh to go for the throat when he plays, suggesting that "hating" one's opponent is an important key. But Josh has a good heart, and his mother doesn't want that trait to be quashed. Ultimately, Josh's parents must decide whether chess will dominate the lad's life or whether he should pursue other childhood activities as well. The result is an emotional resonance that runs deeper than you might expect. The thoughtful script and direction, by Steven Zaillian (writer of "Awakenings" and the upcoming "Schindler's List"), enables parents to easily identify with the situation - whether or not they understand chess. And a weighty metaphor is provided by interspersed documentary footage about controversial chess champion Bobby Fis-cher. The performances are first-rate all the way, with Mantegna and Allen (who is unrecognizable from her "Ethan Frome" character) excellent as Josh's parents, and Kingsley and Fishburne giving dimension to the characters in competition for Josh's abilities. But without a child who could carry off the central role with the necessary emotion and chess-playing ability, the film would probably fall flat. Fortunately, Zaillian found young Max Pomeranc, a high-ranking chess player whose understated performance is a genuine highlight. "Searching for Bobby Fischer" is rated PG, for one profanity.August 18th, 1993 · Details
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