Film Review: Moneyball
American baseball movies don’t tend to do very well outside of the U.S. (except maybe in Japan where baseball is possibly even bigger than in the USA!) as the sport is rather confusing to those who don’t know much about it. But when you think about, there’s been quite a lot of really good baseball films. Films like Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, The Bad News Bears (both versions) and many others. You can add Moneyball to that group and in fact this could be the best baseball movie ever made.
The film is not so much about baseball as it about what goes on behind the scenes. It’s based on a true story about former player and now manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who comes upon a new strategy to create a winning team, through a young stats geek and Yale Economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). But of course not everyone is as convinced as he is.
What we have here is an electrifying and hugely entertaining movie about a subject that might not sound very interesting to a lot of people, at least outside North America: Baseball behind-the-scenes drama. But the filmmakers manage to make it very engrossing and hold your attention throughout.
Moneyball gives the viewer a detailed and thorough view of the mechanics behind the scenes in baseball. It’s about baseball, but it’s just as much about what it takes and what it means to make a winning team, or rather to try to make a winning team. Underneath this surface story lies a tale about the desire to make changes, to dare to believe in yourself, and what it means to take integrity over money in a world governed by the latter. A world where humans (the players on the team) are mere commodities and can be bought and sold easily.
This story is especially relevant in today’s wintry economic climate. Moneyball is set in 2002, when people still thought they could spend as much money as possible without worrying about consequences. Billy Beane doesn’t have that luxury and thus has to come up with something new, possibly revolutionary, to make up for that. It’s something to think about.
The main thing a movie like this needs is a strong script as it is very dialogue driven, and the screenwriters this time are Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), two of Hollywood’s finest. They do a great job, as the movie is filled with cracker jack dialogue, well structured plot, where the story is solidly paced with no pointless scenes or scenes that go on too long, and characters that are interesting and well realised.
Brad Pitt is excellent as always and keeps showing how terrific a comedic actor he is (somebody give this guy the lead role in a farce!) as well as being a great dramatic actor. Jonah Hill tones down his comedic schtick here and turns in a very strong dramatic performance (with touches of humor). Phillip Seymour Hoffman is solid but doesn’t get much to do, though it’s fun to see him play a bald, fat sports coach. The standout here, though, is possibly young Kerris Dorsey as Beane’s 12 year old daughter.
There’s hard to find much fault to this movie, but it’s maybe a tad too calculated to be a masterpiece. It’s also a little overlong (though it’s hard to say how it could be shorter) and overstates its themes a little bit, but overall the flaws in the movie are quite minor.
Final verdict: A riveting and highly entertaining movie that doesn’t require you to be interested in baseball to be able to enjoy it.
- Moneyball Movie Review, from an A’s fan perspective (crosschecker.mlblogs.com)
- Brad Pitt Goes Rugged to Wrap Up Moneyball Time in “Inspirational” Tokyo (popsugar.com)
- The Undervaluing Of Moneyball; Or, What You Can Learn By Watching With A Bunch Of Old People [Moneyball] (deadspin.com)