Friday, April 20, 2012

Moneyball Movie Review

I’m normally not one to patronize sports movies. A couple of them have been quite good, provided the sport itself isn’t the main focus. The Sandlot (1993) is about learning how to make friends and the bond that friendship brings. Remember the Titans (2000) is about overcoming prejudice and racism. Both are great movies. Miracle (2004) is about playing hockey at the Olympics. It was also good, but I couldn’t get into it because hockey was the main driving factor in the movie. Along comes Moneyball (2011), directed by Bennett Miller. I wasn’t very excited about it; but it did star Brad Pitt, so I gave it a shot.
Based on a true story set in 2002, the Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), is faced with an unfavorable financial situation. His budget doesn’t allow him to get good players for his team, resulting in poor performance that jeopardizes the future of the Oakland A’s. After discovering and hiring Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young Yale economics graduate, the two formulate a new approach towards scouting and analyzing players. Using statistics, probabilities, and objective evidence they acquire three baseball players no one else wants. This is met with lots of negative criticism from the team’s owner, the recruiters, and Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) the Athletics' manager. The season starts out rough, since Howe isn’t playing the team according to Beane’s plan . When Beane’s plan is finally implemented, it sets the A’s on an unprecedented winning streak.  If Beane’s innovative managing style works, he will have changed the game of baseball forever.
Moneyball follows several underdog sports movie tropes: finding the right players to win the game, the right way to coach the ragtag group, emotional stuff, building confidence among the players, etc. Every sports movie has this stuff in it. What’s so interesting about it in Moneyball is that it is all shown from the business, managerial perspective. All of these things are related to numbers, money, statistics, job security, business transactions with other teams, and whether or not it all fits into the allotted budget. It makes you believe the game is played by the dexterous, but is won by the poindexterous.
That could take the magic out of the game and possibly the drama out of a sports movie. But make no mistake, this movie was very dramatic and exciting. You really get a feel for Billy Beane’s character and understand why wining the World Series is so important to him. Because of that, you empathize with his budget plight and his stresses about the negativity and antagonism he receives every step of the way. The story really is all about Billy Beane and his radical business decisions. In order to remain a good manager, he makes a point of not mingling with the team he manages very much so he can remain as objective as possible. He really is an interesting, strong person that is fascinating to watch in action.
One of the best parts of the movie was the dialogue. Every interaction between characters seems very natural. I may as well have been a fly on the wall during real sports business interactions. Everything seemed so realistic and very dramatic. The dialogue was rich, yet filled with sports terminology that goes over my head. I’m just not a sports person. Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of baseball will have no trouble. In spite of my sports ineptitude, such dramatic tension was built up in the office and on the game field such that when important plays were made I got goose bumps!
You don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate Moneyball. It’s well acted, exquisitely written, well directed, and will keep you engaged even if you don’t know diddlysquat about baseball. If you do know diddlysquat about baseball, it will be all the better. Moneyball is the first baseball movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award (Oscar) since Field of Dreams (1989) twenty-two years earlier. It’s that good. I think the movie would bore younger viewers since there is little actual baseball in this baseball movie. I probably won’t get a copy of this myself, but it is worth owning if you enjoy baseball or sports movies in general.

What is your all time favorite sports movie? I mean “real sports” movie; not Harry Potter because it had Quidditch in it. Comment below and tell me why you like it so much!

No comments:

Post a Comment