“Moneyball” is a very interesting film adaptation of the non-fiction book of the same name.
The film follows the story of Billy Beane, the real life general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
It begins in October 2001, with the A’s losing to the New York Yankees in the opening round of the playoffs. Beane, frustrated with his team’s miniscule payroll, the inequality of free agency and the fact that his best three players have been bought by teams with much larger budgets, meets a man named Peter Brand.
Together they develop an analytical system of evaluating players and begin to piece together a team made of players who can be signed on cheap. The film then tracks the team as they struggle and triumph through the first season of the new system.
What makes the film interesting is that the book was written more as a study of the highly sophisticated system, than as a storyline made for Hollywood. The screen adaptation for film was written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The script was well written, and the dialogue between the two stars, Brad Pitt (Beane) and Jonah Hill (Brand), is comfortable and blunt.
The script also did a good job of portraying Beane for the rugged and painfully stubborn person that he actually is. Pitt at times softens that image, but in the many scenes of chairs being thrown and desks being flipped, the real Beane is front and center.
Another factor that made the film interesting is that the true story took place only a few years ago. It was strange to see modern characters that are still active and in public life being portrayed in the film. I know what Billy Beane looks like, and it was sometimes difficult to see Pitt as him, but that’s Hollywood. I can’t remember seeing a film based on such a recent true sports story.
Directing the film is Bennet Miller, who also directed the award-winning film “Capote.” He deserves a great deal of credit for his seamless integration of archive footage of actual baseball games and dramatized versions of the same events. The choice to also shoot a great deal of footage on location in ballparks such as Fenway Park in Boston, the Coliseum in Oakland and others helps to make the film feel very genuine.
Brad Pitt is a great actor; I’ve always thought so and I’ve enjoyed most of his performances. He doesn’t disappoint in this film but it’s not his most adventurous role.
Pitt does his very best “average guy” impression throughout the movie. I think that his real life experience as a father helped him a lot in his role here. In his scenes and interactions involving Beane and his daughter, his emotions are very real and powerful. Those are the most touching scenes in the film. Miller uses that fact in the transition and organization of the film.
Jonah Hill is mediocre. I didn’t find anything special or touching about his performance. There are glimpses when he’s either very funny or mildly touching. Seeing him in serious roles just doesn’t really work for me. I appreciate him trying to broaden his acting horizons; drama isn’t his niche, though.
The supporting cast was highlighted by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the A’s manager. He gives a good performance as he battles with Beane’s new approach with his own old-school style.
The real life manager, Art Howe, whom Hoffman based his performance, has claimed he was actually disturbed by his portrayal in the film. This might actually be a testament to Hoffman. He portrayed the character as he saw him, and did so in an unapologetic manner.
Overall, I enjoyed the film. It was, as far as I can tell, historically accurate. It is romanticized slightly but it works with the story.
I also found it refreshing that this sports movie wasn’t about winning or setting great records, or cliché moral victories.