Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
|Featuring:||Brad Pitt … Billy Beane
Jonah Hill … Peter Brand
Robin Wright Penn … Sharon
Philip Seymour Hoffman … Art Howe
Chris Pratt … Scott Hatteberg
Kathryn Morris … Tara Beane
Tammy Blanchard … Elizabeth Hatteberg
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|Producer:||Michael De Luca Productions
Scott Rudin Productions
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|Distributor:||Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures|
“What are you really worth?”
I’ll admit it: I love baseball. There is no other sport like it. Unlike football, basketball, or even soccer, baseball requires a love of the game and an attention to detail to even casually enjoy it. It is the only sport that you can watch and see something new every night. For fans like me, a love of baseball comes from a lifetime of experiences. Playing little league with my big brother, catch with my dad (and mom from time to time), and going to games with my wife are experiences that have instilled in me a love of the game. While “Moneyball” is about a man who tried to change the game, the film is also a lot like baseball itself. For some it may seem slow or irrelevant, but for fans of America’s pastime or quality filmmaking, “Moneyball” is pure magic.
Based on the best-selling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, the film centers on Billy Beane, former major league player and current general manager of the Oakland Athletics, one of the poorest teams in all of baseball. In a sport where there are big payroll discrepancies from team to team, Beane is faced with the task of rebuilding a baseball team that has just lost their three best players to richer teams.
Instead of trying to compete with the richer teams with raw talent, he does so with statistics. He decides to go against the advice of his veteran staff and put together a team of misfits based upon the computer of a Yale graduate named Peter Brand who has never played baseball before. He plays a washed up catcher at first base, signs a star from the past, and drafts players that no other team even wants. Along the way, Beane faces trials from people inside and outside the organization, as he strives to change the way baseball teams are made.
While the novel by Lewis is a great story of humanity wrapped in a big bag of statistics and history, the film is an excellent story with ancillary mentions of statistics and history. This is a necessary shift by director Bennett Miller, because it makes the story accessible to those who have not read the book and may not be big fans of baseball. Billy Beane is a man who has a lot of pressure to do something unprecedented,, and he is so competitive that he cannot even watch the games and sometimes lets his anger get the best of him.
For fans of baseball like me, “Moneyball” works on all levels. It is funny, true to the spirit of the book, and expertly made. While he has had his share of misfires (“The Mexican”, “Mr. And Mrs. Smith”), Brad Pitt shines as the lead character Billy Beane. He does an excellent job of portraying someone who wants so desperately to succeed but who also has a heart. It is probably the best acting job of his career. Jonah Hill is also excellent as Peter Brand. Brand is a character that was altered greatly from the book, but Hill successfully brings it to life. Also, the always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman commands the screen in his few scenes as crotchety A’s manager Art Howe. It is understandable that those not familiar with baseball may find the film somewhat slow.
There are many positive and redemptive qualities in “Moneyball”. The main idea of the film is someone who is willing to look past outward appearance to judge someone. This quality is so rare in our culture that it always deserves to be mentioned. The main character, while not perfect, is someone who cares about his family and those around him. He is willing to take responsibility for things that are not his fault, and give credit to others, particularly his manager, even when he himself deserves it. ***Spoiler Alert*** At the end of the film, Billy is offered over twenty times the amount of money he currently makes to become a part of another team, and he turns it down on principle. ***End Spoiler***
“Moneyball”’s PG-13 rating is accurate, but only because of language. No sexual situations are present in the film, and there are only a couple of minor sexual innuendos. There are 2 F-words plus about 20 other milder profanities. While the language is present, it is almost non-existent compared to the amount of language found in the book. Considering the high pressure situation and atmosphere of a major league baseball clubhouse, the heavy language was accurately portrayed, without being gratuitous.
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” ask Beane during the film. If you read the first paragraph of this review, you already know that I am. “Moneyball” is an excellent baseball film for fans like me, but it also works as a mainstream movie, because of its exaltation of positive characteristics like loyalty and family. It may not be for everyone, but baseball fans, and fans of good movies, cannot afford to miss “Moneyball”.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild