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The Girl From Plainville Features Some of the Worst Baseball Ever Committed to Film

We're talking Twilight levels of bad baseball.
  • Elle Fanning's Michelle Carter has the first at-bat in The Girl From Plainville's ridiculous baseball scene. (Photo: Hulu)
    Elle Fanning's Michelle Carter has the first at-bat in The Girl From Plainville's ridiculous baseball scene. (Photo: Hulu)

    The Girl From Plainville is many things. It’s a showcase for Elle Fanning, who adds real depth to Michelle Carter’s story with her standout performance. It’s a compelling dramatization of the “texting-suicide case,” as it came to be known, and the events that led to the death of Conrad “Coco” Roy III, played by Colton Ryan. And it’s an interesting take on identity, particularly as it relates to two teenagers struggling to reconcile their own self-perception with that of the outside world.

    The Girl From Plainville is not, however, an acceptable representation of on-screen baseball. Episode 2, “Turtle,” sees Michelle honor Conrad’s memory by hosting Homers for Conrad, a baseball tournament to raise money for mental health awareness. In the world of the show, Homers for Conrad affords Michelle an opportunity to center herself in the wake of Conrad’s death: she hosts the event in Plainville, about an hour away from his hometown of Mattapoisett, fills the stands with her own friends and family, and purposely avoids reaching out to Conrad’s best friend, Rob (Jeff Wahlberg), who was the first to suggest a fundraiser in his honor. With this context in mind, it’s understandable that The Girl From Plainville team included this real-life event in the limited series — but there is absolutely no excuse for making viewers sit through some of the worst baseball committed to film since Twilight.

    To be clear, this is not a criticism of Homers for Conrad or mental health fundraisers. Regardless of Michelle’s on-screen or real-world intentions, raising money for suicide awareness is an admirable goal, and we absolutely need to remove the stigma around mental illness, especially as it relates to teenagers. Our beef is specifically with The Girl From Plainville, which could have easily depicted the goings-on at Homers for Conrad without focusing on the actual baseball being played on the field. But by spending so much time doing so — and by allowing this baseball to be laughably unrealistic — the Hulu series veers into campiness, a decision that takes away from the show’s important message about mental health.

    On to The Girl From Plainville’s desecration of America’s pastime. When Michelle first pitches the idea for a fundraiser in the premiere, she suggests a softball game, which, logistically, makes sense, as the barrier to entry for underhand softball is lower, and the goal of the event is to raise as much money as possible. (For what it’s worth, the real Homers for Conrad Facebook page described the event as a “slow pitch softball tournament.”) But by Episode 2, the fundraiser has turned into a baseball tournament that is inexplicably being played on a single softball diamond. Ideal conditions!

    It's a swing and a miss for Elle Fanning's Michelle Carter. (Credit: Hulu)

    Michelle doesn’t appear to be playing for a specific team, but she has the honor of batting first, and the Bulldogs’ pitcher goes easy on her with an absolute meatball. After missing badly, the 18-year-old connects on a slightly faster pitch, and in a true moment of movie magic, she manages to beat out a routine throw to first from behind second base. Michelle beams on first base, but we never see her advance or make it home; instead, the camera cuts to the stands, where Detective Scott Gordon (Kelly AuCoin) sits, casting a careful eye on the proceedings.

    When the drama cuts back to the field seconds later, Michelle is nowhere to be found, but the game has clearly progressed apace. The Bulldogs are now on offense, and though the shortstop for the unidentified maroon team — the team Michelle was hitting for — practically takes his first baseman’s head off with a laser from 15-feet away, the team misses the tag at home by a mile (fundamentals, guys). The Girl From Plainville cares enough about verisimilitude to show Michelle whiffing the first pitch, so why not depict what happens after she makes it on base? And if her at-bat was merely symbolic, as both a gesture of goodwill towards the event’s organizer and a display of the character’s need for attention, why continue to show the teams making plays, poorly executed though they may be?

    Some embarrassing footwork on display from this first baseman. (Credit: Hulu)

    Obviously, these aren’t the most important questions raised by The Girl From Plainville, but the fact that anyone with a working knowledge of baseball is left asking them at all is a problem. The show’s Homers for Conrad scene doesn’t need to include any actual baseball to get its point across, and it certainly doesn’t need to include baseball that makes the Bad News Bears look like MLB all-stars. Say what you will about Twilight, but at least the Cullens knew how to make a big play at home plate.

    The first three episodes of The Girl From Plainville are now streaming on Hulu, with new episodes dropping every Tuesday.

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    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: The Girl From Plainville, Hulu, Colton Ryan, Conrad Roy, Elle Fanning, Michelle Carter