Here’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships – sometimes, you have to compromise. Sometimes, you have to do things for your man that you’d rather not do and you have to pretend like you’re enjoying it and sometimes, you even have to do it several times before you get what it is that you want. Case in point: I recently went to two sports films with Jeff.
Now, I have to be honest. I don’t know much about sports in general and quite frankly, I really have next to no desire to know. Why am I so indifferent to this thing that most men appear to be incapable of living without? Well,
1) I have asthma and therefore, I never got to play any of the games that all the other kids were playing. This led to me becoming bitter towards those who could actually breathe and have fun at the same time and,
2) I’m a girl.
My indifference to sports tends to extend even to cinematic sports. Seriously, most sports-related films either put me to sleep or lead to me making a lot of snarky comments under my breath. However, I recently forced Jeff to accompany me to see One Day, which is one of the most girly movies ever made. In fact, it was such a girly movie that I’ve had to see not one but two sports movies with Jeff. The first was Warrior and the second (which we saw on Saturday) was Moneyball.
I don’t quite feel qualified to review Moneyball because, to be honest, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on during most of the film. Normally, I would just say that this was a sign of failure on the film’s part but the audience around me really seemed to love this film and so did Jeff. So, I’m going to refrain from judging Moneyball too harshly. Instead, I’ll simply state that this film was not for me but if you’re a baseball fan (and you really love to get into the nitty gritty details of how a baseball team is put together), chances are that you’ll enjoy this film.
Fortunately, there are a few things that help make Moneyball a tolerable experience even for a sport illiterate like me. The film tells the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s and how he turned the A’s into a winning team by revolutionizing the way that teams are put together. I’m not really sure what he did that was revolutionary because the film itself really doesn’t spend too much time explaining how his method is different from the previous method. It spends a lot of time telling us that his approach is different but Aaron Sorkin’s script seems to assume that everyone in the audience already knows how baseball works. (That’s not necessarily a slam against the film, either. It’s a baseball movie, after all.) Luckily, Brad Pitt, who gives such a mature and multi-faceted performance here that you hope that Billy succeeds even if, like me, you’re not really sure what he’s talking about half the time, plays Billy Beane. Seriously, this was the first time I’ve ever watched Brad Pitt and forgotten that I was watching Brad Pitt. Pitt is ably supported by Jonah Hill, who plays his assistant and is largely responsible for introducing Pitt to the “new” system. Hill plays his scenes with all the enthusiasm of a high school nerd who has finally forced the cool kids to acknowledge how much smarter he is than them. It’s a truly endearing performance and again, you find yourself rooting for Hill even if you can’t quite understand what he’s going on about half the time.
Again, if you’re a sports fan or a fan of statistics (which I am not because seriously, math is just one big bleh to me), you’ll find a lot of to enjoy in Moneyball. I wish the film had been a bit more accessible for someone like me but obviously, I’m not that target audience and, regardless of whether you’re a sports fan or not, director Bennett Miller keeps the action moving quickly and the performances of Pitt and Hill both hold your attention.
Warrior takes place in the world of “mixed martial arts,” which I assume is the new big sport. I say assume because I actually know even less about the world of mixed martial arts than I do about baseball. Before going in to see Warrior, all I knew about MMA and the Ultimate Fighting Championship was that Russell – one of the most unlikable Big Brother houseguests ever – was apparently a UFC contender. Or maybe it was Jesse. I don’t know. I have trouble keeping all the Big Brother houseguests straight, to be honest.
Warrior is the story of two brothers. One of them is a bitter, pill-popping ex-Marine who fights because he’s angry at the world. Tom Hardy plays him. The other is played by Joel Edgerton and is presented as a happily married teacher who is fighting because he’s flat broke and in danger of losing his home. The two brothers haven’t spoken in years and about the only thing they have in common (beyond the fact that they’re both good at fighting) is a shared hatred for their father (a quite poignant Nick Nolte, doing wonders in a role that seems almost too perfect for him), a recovering alcoholic who sees his sons as his only hope for redemption. Ultimately, the parallel fighting careers of the two brothers leads to a surprise family reunion in Atlantic City where they find themselves both competing in the same brutal, winner-take-all tournament.
Warrior tells a pretty familiar story and there are a few plot developments (such as Hardy’s AWOL status from the Marines) that feel undeveloped but the film still works about a hundred percent better than it has any right to. Director Gavin O’Connor wisely takes a low-key approach to the film’s more melodramatic moments and brings a sense of gritty realism to the beginning of the film that provides quite a contrast to the later gaudiness of Atlantic City. Nolte and Edgerton both give excellent performances and, after years of being best known for his mug shot, it’s nice to see what a strong and multifaceted actor Nick Nolte actually is. However, the film truly belongs to Tom Hardy. In this film, Hardy is a true force of nature and gives a performance that is both frightening and sympathetic at the same time. You want to reach out and give the poor guy a hug even though you know he might end up killing you in response.
Coming out of Warrior, I still didn’t know much about MMA but I did know that I had just seen a well-made, emotionally satisfying film.