Notable Cast: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, Chris Pratt
Review: For too long movies have made heroes out of the players on the diamond such as Roy Hobbs, Jimmy Morris, or Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. But who scouted those players? Who assembled the team? Moneyball gives us a rare insight into what goes on during the business half of baseball, and takes us inside the front office of a struggling Major League Baseball team. An ongoing debate in “our nation’s past time” has been how to regulate payroll, by say implementing a salary cap. Look at teams like the Yankees and Red Sox today; if they want a player bad enough all they have to do is throw more money around and phase out the poorer teams. Moneyball is a testament to how brilliant minds can beat such a system and beat the evil capitalist pigs that dominate our beloved sport. Baseball fans will fall in love with Moneyball, but there’s plenty to love for your average cinema fan as well.
Moneyball tells the true story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Pitt), and his attempt to reinvent the way his entire profession thinks. For years players were scouted based on consistent factors as old as the game itself. But Billy had to think different because his team’s payroll was on the bottom of the pack. And by bottom I mean the A’s $39 million versus the Yankees $114 million. Beane had the task of filling such shoes as Jason Giambi and Jonny Damon for a fraction of the salary. While Beane’s co-workers were trying to replace the superstars, Beane himself realized there was no replacing the output of these A’s defects with the money available. But how would they? All is made clear when Beane meets a young Cleveland Indian’s player analyst named Peter Brand (Hill) who adapts the teachings of mathematician Bill James. Bill was ostracized by baseball for disregarding years of tradition, but his equation said that if you buy runs, you can buy wins. So, for a fraction of the cost, Billy Beane assembled a team of overlooked players just because they get on base. Beane was just trying to compete, but that rag-tag team he assembled would do more than go down in history. Beane reshaped the way GMs approach their job, and will always be remembered for that one inspirational season.
Soak in Fat Jonah Hill, we only have about one more movie left of him…
I admit there was a hint of skepticism in my full belief that a movie centering around baseball General Managers, mathematics, and the Oakland A’s could fully be a contender this awards season. Based of the acclaimed book, it was going to take a lot to win over the mass of audiences that exist. But, Moneyball does just that. In good sports drama fashion, the script is able to catch all the drama and excitement that existed during the A’s history making winning streak. You might remember the name of co-writer Aaron Sorkin for a little film he wrote last year called The Social Network, again covering the business aspect of something we only know at face value (Facebook). Moneyball was in good hands from the start. Just as The Fighter did last year, Moneyball is able to interest its audience with past events we already know the ending to, but embellishes them so much better than we ever remembered. When Scott Hatterberg cracks that home run in extra innings against the Royals, after giving up an 11 run lead, the film captures the sheer romance of the situation even reality couldn’t. We saw the ball coast out of the park in real-time, mixed in a collage of colors scattered around the stands. Here, Miller captures that moment of nothingness as we comprehend what just happened so artistically well. Everything is blacked out except Hatty (Pratt), some players, the opposing pitcher, and the ball. As soon as the ball flies, time slows down, and in slow motion we watch the flood of emotions over each player. It was the perfect moment, captured and drawn out, and Hollywood-ized in the perfect way to not make it detached from reality. These are moments from our fantasy, but Moneyball brings them to life.
Brad Pitt is one of those actors that kills it in any role he’s given. Really, look back at his filmography and try to pick something out that he horrendously sucks in. You can’t. And again, the fact that Pitt takes a MLB General Manager and makes him this fantastically in-depth character speaks to how talented he is. I believe 100% Pitt will be in talks for a Best Actor at some point for his work here, as he delves into Beane’s family issues and mental struggles as well. Moneyball is much more a focus on Beane himself instead of purely the Oakland A’s season, as we learn about Beane’s past history and life. Pitt’s acting validates Beane’s choices because he portrayed this understanding as the character that led to immense confidence in understanding. Pitt vibed that he knew exactly where Beane was coming from with his decision, and I loved every minute of it. Hoffman, Hill, and a random casting of actors portraying real Major League stars round out this stellar cast of characters. I would have loved to see real players make cameo’s, but the time difference may have played a factor in that idea.
Sure, Moneyball does “Hollywood” up the story of the A’s season. As I said, they used fancy techniques to brough us unique views on the game and alter our perception of what really happens. But, if we have the technology, why not bring the drama out even more? If this most recent end to the MLB regluar season (BoSox/Braves epic collapses) doesn’t speak to how Hollywood-esque the game really is, why don’t we embrace it? Sorkin himself couldn’t write a better end to the regular season. So, I say, I loved every over dramatized and visualized moment of the greatest events in A’s history. Moneyball also gives the average fan insight into the complexity that is baseball’s front office, and manages to make it an engrossing experience. It helps to be a fan of the game, but Moneyball is a certified grand slam for any of those willing to watch.
Final Rating: 8.5 strippers found in Jeremy Giambi’s room out of 10
“Well, if this doesn’t work, you’re fired! lolz!”