Because I live in Los Angeles and probably run into more people who are ambivalent about sports than the average human being crosses paths with, here's the question I've been getting asked all week: "Will I like Moneyball if I don't care about baseball?"
My answer is, "Do you like good movies?"
By way of further explanation, here's a Moneyball review in two parts.
For the reader who doesn't care about and/or actively dislikes baseball:
Keep reading, because this is the baseball movie for baseball haters. It comes equipped with very few annoyingly romantic ideas about the sport and refuses to buckle under the historic burden of automatically turning the it all into a metaphor for life itself. It's the true story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his unorthodox success when he applies an unusual approach to staffing his cash-strapped, low-morale, frequently-losing team for the 2002 season.
With the help of an assistant, a man whose team-building philosophy is more in tune with economics and statistics than traditional methods of picking players (Jonah Hill, deadpan and subdued in a way you've never seen before), Beane assembles a roster of has-beens, castoffs and the underrated, all of whom share the ability to rack up runs in spite of their other weaknesses on the field.
From that moment on it becomes the story of Beane's struggle to prove that his plan is worthwhile and the fast, funny, fascinating script by Aaron Sorkin drives the action in the same way that his screenplay for The Social Network hooked you with a story about the start-up of a website. Because seriously, did you think you wanted to watch a movie about Facebook? You know you didn't. And in the first two minutes, it drew you in to caring about the world angry code-writing nerds anyway, whether you understood what they were talking about all the time or not.
Now, would it enhance your viewing experience if you knew anything about league standings and the intricacies of sports statistics? Yes. Will it impair your understanding or entertainment if you don't? Nope. Kind of like how not knowing anything about parsecs (a real thing) or Kessel Runs (a made-up thing) doesn't ruin Star Wars. It all makes sense in the end if you just go with it.
Brad Pitt's the MVP here, of course, giving a great worn-down, tired-eyed, torn-in-too-many-directions performance, the kind they give awards to when it's time for that sort of thing. And that performance is just one part of a machine that never breaks down. It's about the struggle between science and belief, career and family, business and pleasure, money and love, meaning and pointlessness and it's one of the best mainstream American movies of the year. You might even feel like seeing it again with a baseball geek who can explain the finer details. So the real answer to that first question is, "Yes, dummy."
For the baseball faithful:
You've already read the book by Michael Lewis that this movie's adapting. What are you doing sitting here reading a review? Go buy a ticket.