For a few years, I reviewed independent movies for a distribution company. It was a great addition to my other reviews, mostly a mix of mainstream pictures and my personal B-movie, indie, or foreign favorites.
Each month, the distributor offered me a description of two dozen features, and I picked whatever I wanted to watch and review. What I found, over and over, was that I often chose pictures with character actors I love leading a small film with a solid premise. So I paid immediate attention when a friend pointed out the trailer for a film that has John C. McGinley and Garret Dillahunt engage in a battle of wills while coaching little league.
In Benched, both men coach the same little league team. They should have the same goals, but they have wildly different attitudes towards sports and competition. Don (McGinley) is the head coach – an intense, tough, practical hardass who only cares about winning. Michael (Dillahunt) is the new assistant coach – an altruistic, nurturing figure who values sportsmanship and the experience of playing more than the scoreboard. These men have no choice but to struggle with their different styles – to life, to the National Pastime – while trying to manage a group of children who seem lost on the baseball diamond.
After I saw the trailer, I did a little research and was pretty happy with what I learned. This story is adapted from “Rounding Third,” a play by Richard Dresser. He’s a prolific New England playwright whose work has been praised, consistently, since the mid-1980’s. Both the leads have a lot of experience with theater, both made the transition to being very capable performers in film and television, and both men are exceptional at drama while putting out such good comedic work that either one could have been typecast to solely comic roles. These two are the right leads for the story the trailer lays out…
In independent works, actors are more likely to gravitate to projects that they find potent or significant – they’re more likely to be strongly involved in a passion project than merely keeping busy. Frequently, that focus on the part of the cast and crew results in independent movies doing a better job – of telling a good story well – than their mainstream peers. In addition to my fondness for both Mr. McGinley and Mr. Dillahunt, I know the former is a massive baseball fan and I’m sure his verisimilitude will be unimpeachable. When the movie comes out this month, I look forward to seeing these actors bounce off of each other.