“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.