Do you love a good baseball movie? Does thinking about Field of Dreams or Bull Durham just get you all wistful? Or The National? Yeah, me too. Moneyball is none of those.
Or were you stunned and amazed by Russell Crowe’s mathematical brilliance in Beautiful Mind? Well, me, not so much.
But this movie is kind of a combination of those two. If you’re going for a rousing baseball movie, you’d best stay home. Ditto if the sight of math (especially math on a screen) starts putting you into heaves.
I just don’t know what to make of this movie. There are so many reasons I wanted to like it.
For instance, I attended with my friend who (GASP!) had never even HEARD of Aaron Sorkin, much less cottoned to his patented “walk and talks.” Sorkin, though, is the second credited writer on this. After Steven Zaillian. Now, if one has a discussion of the top ten living screenwriters today, it’s pretty assured that both of those names would be on the list.
Still, the script pretty much left me cold.
Part of it was the script (or lack of it), part of it was the ham-fisted direction by Bennett Miller. You can just read the page in your mind: “and he tears up, hearing his little girl’s voice. He decides to stay.” CUT TO: Tears in his eyes.
No joke. The final (supposed to be poignant shot, I guess) was a close-up of tears in Brad Pitt’s eyes. I wanted to barf.
And you would think that with eight (and counting) little brats of his own, that he’d be able to convey this fatherliness that warrants the end tear-up. I musta missed it.
Also, while his team is out there, struggling it out, Brad Pitt’s character is anywhere but on the field or watching. He’s working out, he’s in his office, he’s driving, far away. Why? Well, if you rustle your popcorn at the wrong time you’ll miss it, but his little tyke at one point says, “You’re not gonna jinx it, go back.”
From this, I guess, that you are supposed to glean that he’s afraid of jinxing his own team. That’s why he stays away. And, to hammer that point home, he returns when they have an 11-point lead. The other teams starts scoring. It ends up tied.
Do we cut to the drama on the field? No, been there, done that. Instead, we get Pitt, agonizing in the locker room about whether or not he’s jinxing them. Yikes.
Maudlin crap like that.
So, the direction was dreadful. But let’s get back to the story.
Now, if it’s a good baseball movie, it should be understandable by anyone who watches it, whatever their level of baseball knowledge.
And I love baseball. I wouldn’t claim to be intimate with all its arcana, though.
The premise here is that MLB had gotten too full of its britches, offering million-dollar contracts to people who really didn’t deserve them. And that some Yale dude had figured out a mathematical way to know who deserved to be hired and who didn’t. Based on how often they got on base. Mathematically.
Jonah Hill does the best with this that he can. Coach Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who still wants to coach baseball his way, adds some fire to a nothing role.
But to me, in the end, baseball is really about those guys out there on the bases. Not the money men counting out their worth in back rooms. This movie dealt far too much with those guys. Did this new way of “counting” change baseball? Apparently so.
Do we care? No matter how many close-uped tears you shoot, the answer is still no.