Moneyball (2011)

by George Watches Things

***½

I really like baseball. And I put a lot of stock in statistics in sports. So going into Moneyball, I was afraid of being let down by an overly dramatic film. I wasn’t let down by an overly dramatic film. I wasn’t let down at all.

The dialogue is a lot less sharp in Moneyball than in The Social Network, the other recent Aaron Sorkin creation. That’s because the people in baseball, like the game itself, are a lot more relaxed than the people in the technological world that Mark Zuckerberg inhabits. That doesn’t mean, however, that Moneyball isn’t compelling and it doesn’t flow.

Moneyball (no italics) is an idea… a game within a game, if you will. It’s about getting value. An $8M player may be way better than a $500K player, but would you rather be paying a great player $8M for great production or three good players $1.5M combined for almost the same production? That’s only one of the many questions posed to Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) by Johnny-come-lately stat-geek Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). They battle not only other teams, but also the old school way of thinking in baseball. Oh, also, Beane has a daughter that sings.

Almost all these characters have great emotional moments. Brad Pitt, or rather Billy Beane, has numerous natural moments with his daughter (Kerris Dorsey). The character interactions were especially believable. I loved how Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s manager got under the skin of Billy Beane, although Hoffman had nothing to do in this film. Jonah Hill was surprisingly good, though.

But why is Billy Beane divorced? The movie never touches that subject. Instead, it opts to show him throwing things and driving his car in circles on a dock. We get it. He’s frustrated. But the movie should have given us more emotion early on, instead of putting it all at the very end.

Adam Kempenaar of Filmspotting said in his review that he wanted the movie to give him “one big scene,” a scene like the chariot scene in Ben-Hur. I agree. I wasn’t fully invested in the “big game,” and what would have been the climax in any other movie was not that here (the playoff mini-scene). The movie brought me to this point, and I get that a loss is a loss, but I had hoped for something big.

The end of the movie was beautiful, though. It was fittingly intimate and small. I won’t give it away, but I will urge you to go see this movie, even if you aren’t a baseball fan.

Notes:

  • I know how simple and somewhat thought-less this is going to sound, but I’ll say it anyway: it had pretty colors.
  • No funny quotes this time because I saw it in a theater.
  • Brad Pitt was very good, but not as great as he was in The Tree of Life.
  • Moneyball is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.
  • If you see and enjoy Moneyball, you might also want to check out Man on Wire and The Band That Wouldn’t Die.
  • Coming up: more 1970s talk and my reviews of The Fighter, Moonstruck, and Pulp Fiction.
Advertisements