Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moneyball - Movie Review

I wasn't actually all that excited about seeing Moneyball, even though I was a huge Oakland A's fan growing up. In recent years, I've grown out of them, and baseball in general. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to enjoy a movie about a team and the man behind them. What's worse was that this movie is based during a time when I was still heavily into the A's and year after year they would break my heart. The A's would lose in the playoffs and then see their best players jump ship for more money. I think I thought of watching Moneyball as kind of like opening an old wound.

The good thing is that Moneyball is that it's a movie that you don't have to be into baseball, or the A's, to enjoy. I found it made me more nostalgic about those times, than reminding me of my consistent disappointment in the A's.

Moneyball, is more of a story about their Billy Beane, and how he changed the way a lot of people think about baseball, rather than a movie about baseball itself. Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, is the Oakland A's General Manager. For those of you that don't know, the Oakland A's are 'small market' baseball team that couldn't keep up with the payrolls of larger teams like the Yankees and saw their best player consistently leaving the A's for more money.

Beane had to figure out a way to stay competitive, and put a winning team out on the field at just a quarter of the budget of some of these larger teams. Enter Peter Brandt, played by Jonah Hill. The Brandt character was actually Paul DePodesta, but they had to change the name for legal reasons. Anyway, the two of them started to look at and evaluate players in a different way and were still able to put a winning team out on the field.

They basically did this by looking at players that had a tendency to get on base, but weren't exactly the best baseball players or the flashiest. Many of these guys were cast-offs from other teams or older players way past their prime. As a result, they were able to get them for much cheaper. I remember one of the reasons why I used to love the A's during this time was because they had a underdog feeling to them and were a team full of nobodies. That's not to say they didn't have good players though. One of the things not mentioned in the movie was that at the time, they had one of the best shortstops in the game (Miguel Tejada, who I believe won MVP that year) and one of the best pitching rotations (The Big Three).

As I mentioned before, the movie is more about Beane and their 'Moneyball' theories, than the actual game of baseball. The scenes of baseball are actually kind of few and far between. Most of the baseball is really featured in the last part of the film, when they go into the 20-game win streak (I was actually there for win 18, I believe, but it might have been the 16th). There is very little focus on the players, and only two or three of them are even given much screen time or anything to say or do.

Obviously, when you watch a movie based on real events, there are some things that get changed for dramatic purposes or legal reasons (as with the changing of Paul DePodesta to Peter Brandt). I felt like the baseball stuff was pretty spot on though, or at least how I remember things. For those of you that are interested, I've included a link to a article at the end of the review that goes into details on some of the reality vs. movie.

Moneyball is a pretty dialog-heavy movie, but that's a good thing, as the dialog really pops! The movie was co-written by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote The Social Network. I felt like Moneyball had a similar tone to The Social Network, particularly with the dialog. Much like with The Social Network, I was pretty engaged in almost every scene of dialog. It was almost to the point that when they would show a short clip of baseball being played, I'd be like, "Get back to the dialog!"

Brad Pitt is great as Billy Beane! He really played him in a way that made him both interesting and likable. He deals with people in a very direct and confident way. This contrasts with the many scenes of him interacting with his daughter that are really sweet. I did kind of get the feeling that this is being put out as Oscar bait for Pitt, but it is a great performance. I'm not sure it's Oscar worthy, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a nomination thrown his way (or at least a Golden Globe).

Jonah Hill is also really good here. It was nice to see him in a roll that was different for a change. This is the first movie I've seen him in where he isn't playing that same character that you've seen in movies like Superbad or Knocked Up, where he's just crass and silly. There's hope for him yet.

The rest of the performances were good across the board. I thought Chris Pratt was good as Scott Hatteberg. I could have used a little more Philip Seymour Hoffman (whom I refer to as 'the PSH') as Art Howe. All movies can generally benefit from more of the PSH though. However, he did play Howe are more of a villain. I'm sure this was done for dramatic purposes, as I guess all films need a villain. I always remember Howe to be a nice guy in interviews, and I recall he had a reputation for be a really nice guy, so seeing him as the villain seemed weird to me.

Moneyball was directed by Bennett Miller, who also directed Capote, which was another great movie starring the PSH. Aaron Sorkin also wrote the screenplay for Charlie Wilson's War, which was yet another movie that the PSH was great in. You can call this section of the review, 'My man-love for the PSH'.

Overall, I really, really liked Moneyball. I could watch this a few more times. Again, I thought the performances were great, the dialog was snappy and you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this movie. I'm surprised to say this, but I think it is one of the better films I've seen this year. I think this something that everyone can enjoy and don't have a problem recommending it to anyone. Go see it!

Here's an article that goes into some of the movie vs. reality of Moneyball:

1 comment:

  1. Saw it last night myself and agree with your review - excellent performance by Pitt. I was really taken with the direction of the film and especially by the use of sound (and sometimes the lack thereof in the more dramatic moments).