Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moneyball ★★★★

Before seeing Moneyball, I didn’t know anything about baseball.  After watching the 133 minute drama, I still didn’t know anything about baseball.  What would seem like a large obstacle to enjoying this film doesn’t matter though because it is a movie not just about baseball. It’s about going against convention, about bravely believing when there is no reason to believe.  And those are themes to which anyone can relate and make for a great story.

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the General Manager of one of the poorest baseball teams in the league, the Oakland A’s. He can’t buy the players he needs and the rich teams, like the New York Yankees with their multi-million dollar contracts, are picking off any star players he does develop.  He is a haunted, ambitious man with one goal, that through whatever means available he will bring the Oakland A’s to a World Series win.

Enter Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a computer nerd, Yale-educated economist who offers a new approach to choosing baseball players based on statistics.  Together they collect a team of misfit players, rejected by other teams, but each one with a skill the team needs—the most important being, they’re cheap.  Everybody is against Billy and Pete, the media, his scouts and even his own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and with good reason.  Their ideas are radical and Billy’s single-minded determination to see their statistical selection plan through does not endear him to any of his colleagues.  Once a promising baseball stars himself, Billy’s head scout accuses him of a vendetta against the establishment for the perceived wrongs in his failed baseball career.

Michael Lewis, the author of the book, 'Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game', upon which the film was based, says, “With Moneyball, frankly, I wondered how they were going to do it, because the book doesn’t necessarily have a single narrative or the kind of dramatic arc you usually see in a movie.  So it was truly tough to crack the code and get it right and it was an extremely pleasant surprise to see that Bennett and the screenwriters did the impossible – not only did I love the movie, but I was stunned by how well it represents my book.’ 

The answer to why it did work so well, lies with the screenwriters, Steven Zaillian, who earned an Academy Award® for his screenplay for Schindler’s List, and Aaron Sorkin, who won an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Social Network earlier this year.  Then you have the Director Bennett Miller who also earned an Academy Award® nomination for Best Director for the 2005 drama, Capote.  This is a trio of quality filmmakers and you would expect nothing less than the quality drama delivered in Moneyball.

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are very different in appearance and backgrounds but display great chemistry on screen, delivering performances worthy of the polished script.  The movie is probably about fifteen minutes too long, with the uncomfortable scenes between Billy and his ex-wife not adding anything to the story and Billy’s relationship with his daughter taking up far more time than necessary.

Ultimately though, Moneyball is a rousing, inspirational movie in the tradition of The Damned United and Invictus.  It certainly hit a home run for me.

PS.  To the publicity department.  You’ve got one of the world’s most handsome men and an exciting story and you’ve delivered one of the most boring posters I’ve ever seen.  Tsk. Tsk.