Moneyball (2011)

Greg Says: A great sports movie that will appeal to a wide audience

Title: Moneyball (2011)
Date: 24 September 2011
Recommendation: See it in theaters
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ONE LINE REVIEW : A great sports movie that will appeal to a wide audience.

It’s 2002 and Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) must find a way to replace three of his team’s great players. The players were traded away to other teams, gutting Beane’s team, and his chances of going to the playoffs. Billy’s problem is that he can’t afford to recruit quality players on the $41M in his budget – especially when he is competing with teams with budgets in the $120 million range.

While visiting a competing team’s front office on a deal, Billy meets young Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand has a degree in economics from Yale university and sees baseball strictly in statistical terms. He reasons that a player should be picked for his ability to get on base, not for how many home runs he hits. Billy does his research and realizes he may have found the solution to his problem and recruits Brand to help him reorganize the Oakland team.

But Billy is met with resistance on all fronts. The veteran recruiters are angry that Billy is listening to some young upstart with no experience in baseball. The team manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) won’t play the roster the way Billy wants, thus thwarting any mathematics that may improve their chances. Even the players don’t believe Billy will last the season.

Also, Billy is facing some difficulties with his family. His ex-wife Sharon (Robin Wright) is married to a wimpish guy who doesn’t understand sports, but tries to for Billy’s sake. His adorable daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey) is concerned he may lose his job. The way things are going, Billy secretly feels the same way. And we’re off…

Those who know me know that I’m not a sports fan. I find most sports dull and avoid watching them as I think watching other people do something is a colossal waste of time – especially compared to actually doing it. However, watching Billy Bean resurrect the A’s was a joy. The movie is structured nicely with elements of sports, relationships, and (especially if you are not a sports follower) suspense.

Brad Pitt seems to walk through this role effortlessly. I’m reminded of Robert Redford and his baseball movie “The Natural” (1984). While the roles are very different, they both require a kind of charisma that these actors bring to their roles. Pitt produced the film, which shows his commitment to it. We watch Beane exude confidence in front of his boss, sales savvy when making a deal,he reassures his daughter, and mentors Brand. But privately, we see his uncertainty when things are not going well.

Jonah Hill is best known for his comedic roles (“Superbad”) but plays a very stoic, even stereotypical nerd here. His comic timing comes into good use in several scenes where Brand’s naiveté serves as a contrast to Billy’s bravado. However, the character is written very flatly. We don’t see a lot of variation in Brand’s emotions. Still, Hill does a good job of delivering the character that does the math, and still learns about baseball along the way.

The movie has some minor flaws. The relationships outside of the world of baseball are only lightly touched upon. There are really only 3 scenes with the daughter – one of which is delivered by CD. The relationship with the ex-wife is amounts to one awkward moment. But that’s okay, as the movie is really about turning the team around and breaking with convention. Even so, Billy’s relationships with the players is only lightly covered in a sort of montage. Without giving much away, we don’t really see much growth in the man, only that he succeeds in what he set out to do.

As a non-sports fan, I was very entertained by this movie. I didn’t know the outcome beforehand, as some baseball followers may have. We get to see a wonderful Rags-to-Riches story told very well. Most of the performances may have been underpowered, even flat. But that served to buoy the Brad Pitt character. For a suspenseful story that moved along at a comfortable pace, I recommend you “see it in theaters.”