Moneyball

“Moneyball” is an excellent, excellent movie. Let’s get that out of the way.

Brad Pitt is at his glib, witty best and Jonah Hill is given a role that perfectly fits his stunned, blinking comedic talents. Fueled by top notch dialogue from Aaron Sorkin, the duo inject plenty of very funny comedy into this compelling, excellently paced, well directed movie.

But let’s put this right up front. This is NOT your traditional sports movie. In fact, it’s such an unconventional turn from the sports movie genre that I’m sure that some people are going to detract points from the movie for it, while others give it tons of credit.

In all honesty I still haven’t figured out which side of the foul poul I’m going to be on.

Ever since I heard that the movie rights to this book had been optioned, and a film was being made I was like, “What? ‘Moneyball’?”

“Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game” is a non fiction book by Michael Lewis that details how in the early 00s, Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, used statistical analysis in new ways and to an extent that it had never previously been relied upon in order to build a competitive baseball team in spite of being hamstrung by a cripplingly small payroll.

That’s it. THAT’S the story.

I mean, it’s still a little strange to me that they chose this story, and I am fresh out of the theatre from watching the excellent movie that they turned it into.

Within the movie are plenty of David vs Goliath elements, especially some great sequences which pit Old School vs. New School in the scouting room. It’s fantastic. They mix in tons of humor, the dialogue is fantastic and they do have a lot of the typical sports movie tropes that you’re accustomed to. The losing monatge. The motivational speeches/turning point moments. The winning montage. Watching the team rise in the standings.

But this is backroom baseball. Stats. Game film. Trades. Scouts. Contracts. Not that they don’t show the product that makes it onto the field, of course they do. Its just that there’s way less of that than we’re used to. 

That’s the type of departure from the sports norm I’m ready to praise it for. The type of departure I’m still unsure how I feel about is that the film climaxes at… well… someplace you’re not expecting. Certainly someplace most sports movies don’t. And then it has a fast forward to a bit of an unconventional ending. For a movie that up ’til that point made you feel very much that you’re watching a movie about a team, the ending is very much about the man. Billy Beane was a marginal major leaguer, who as General Manager was forced to watch his team get gutted by the big money ballclubs. When it’s his turn to face the same type of choice the players he lost so many times faced… what would he do?

In the hands of a lesser cast, writers and director, this story would not have carried the day. But Pitt and Hill are both excellent. Very funny. Hell, the movie even gets away with wasting Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a look alike for Art Howe (Not that he wasn’t great with the ten lines of dialogue he had). There’s a lot of laughs, an interesting story, excellent, sometimes even artistic direction… there’s a lot to like. There really is.

But the fact that it left me scratching my head a bit means it just hit the top of the wall for a bases clearing triple, as opposed to being a grand slam.

A-

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14 thoughts on “Moneyball

  1. It may not feel quite like the classic baseball movie others have achieved, but it’s certainly pleasant enough to be enjoyable even by non-sports fan, and features great performances from Hill and Pitt. Good review Dan. Check out mine when you get a chance.

  2. I think the most apt “twitter review” I’ve heard regarding this film is that it’s essentially what The Social Network would have been in the hands of a lesser director. What Fincher did so well with The Social Network was make a dude sitting on a computer in his dimly lit dorm room seem interesting and fun. I didn’t really get that from Moneyball.

    That’s not to say it wasn’t a good movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think it could have been exponentially better with a more competent director.

    • Mmmmmm…

      Pondering…

      I dunno, I didn’t think he was bad. The director that is. He did ok.

      I think you’re absolutely right about the challenge this movie faced. How to make this boring, dry stuff (Hell, I’m a baseball fan and even the SPORT can be dry) exciting. I think they did ok with that. Pitt and Hill deserve most of the credit though. They were very very funny together.

  3. Damn, I hate when you review a very good movie that hasn’t been released in Italy yet… I’m still waiting for “Drive”! (Which is coming out in a week or so).
    It hurts.

  4. Hoping to see it this week. Read the book back when it came out, and likewise was stunned to hear that they were making it into a movie. It may be interesting to see how much they Hollywood the story up.

  5. Great review, couldn’t agree more, but one thing is bothering me, and it has nothing to do with the story or the writing or acting. Every bit of promotional material for this movie lists Robin Wright (is it still Penn?) when she is in the movie for all of 2 minutes? I don’t think it made a bit of difference in the movie, and frankly they could have used damn near any actress for her part, but giving her top billing is misleading.

    As far as the story goes, (and coming from a baseball fan) it was very well told and I would go so far as to say it was more of a character study of Billy Beane and almost a buddy movie between Billy Beane and Peter Brand (the real life Paul Depodesta, who asked that his name be taken off the character because he felt it portrayed him inaccurately as a purely stats nerd) than strictly a sports movie. The sports aspect was also well told except for the fact they ignored the three headed monster that was the Zito/ Mulder/ Hudson pitching staff (all home grown talent I believe) that really kept that team in the pennant race. Oh, and Jeremy Giambi was already on the A’s in 2002!!! Ah, I guess these things are never 100% accurate,

    • Did she make it to two minutes? LOL. That’d be an interesting thing to see once the DVD comes out… check the runtime on the one scene she’s got.

      I agree about the inaccuracies, the Giambi thing actually really bugged me because it was confusing me as I watched it. I couldn’t get the timeline right and I never thought “They made it up or got it wrong” was a possibility.

      Yeah, a LOT of elements of both the Buddy Movie and the Character Study. That’s one of the things that kept me from giving it an A or A+ actually. One of the things that sucks about doing this is you can’t really just come out and talk about the end of movies, but I definitely felt like in the last ten minutes the movie shifted from Sports Movie into character study…. thought it was a bit odd.

      Read that SI article, btw. Good stuff!

  6. Saw it last night with Johnny. He already knew a lot of the background story just because he is such an avid baseball fan. I, on the other hand, enjoyed it as if the whole story was new. (i was excited they made it to game 20…..and he was proud he didn’t tell me before hand.) haha We both loved it!! I am a huge Yankee fan (ever since 1990 when Johnny took me to my first MLB game ever) but i found this movie to give a very interesting behind the scenes perspective of baseball as a whole. I guess I never really thought about it. I personally even liked the character study part of it, must be the girl in me….. He, on the other hand could have done without it.

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