MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Moneyball’

Written by J.T. Johnson

3-stars

DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Wally Pfister
WRITERS: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
MUSIC: Mychael Danna

When an audience goes to see a sports film, they usually know that they are about to see a movie about an underdog team that will go on to win it big by the climax. “Moneyball”, a film based on a 2003 novel by Michael Lewis, takes that formula and gives it a real life twist. It is a good film that is less about the team and more about one man’s salvation as he attempts to challenge the rules with alternative thinking.

It tells the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), a general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Billy knows that with his mediocre budget, he can’t afford the players heading to bigger teams like the New York Yankees. While trying to rebuild his team after a devastating loss to the Yanks in an elimination game, Billy meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale graduate with a degree in economics.

Peter tells Billy that the other teams are looking at the wrong aspects of players and that there are better players that are overlooked that the Oakland A’s can afford. Billy is intrigued by Peter’s model to get a winning team on a small budget and hires the young man as his new assistant general manager. This, of course, does not sit well with old veterans such as the manager of the A’s, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

The surprising aspect of this film is the fact that it focuses more on the behind-the-scene negotiations and Peter’s new mathematical method rather than the games themselves. What’s even more surprising is how entertaining it is to watch Billy at work trying to get better players and more money for his team. The screenplay shines during these scenes with sharp and often funny moments that almost always work.

It also helps that the film has two of its own heavy hitters with Pitt and Hill. The two have an amazing chemistry with one another. Pitt’s character is the center of the story and the actor once again pulls off a great performance as he juggles between Billy’s confidence in the negotiations and his own self-doubt about whether or not he’s taking the team in the right direction. Any other actor in this role would have made the film a less enjoyable experience.

Hill, on the other hand, shows even more range as an actor by setting aside the raunchy comedies he’s known best for and gives an equally strong performance as Peter. Like Pitt, Hill has to perform a juggling act with Peter’s confidence in his new method and his doubts about being an assistant general manager. This is another highlight for the movie.

Despite the film’s strongest assets, the whole movie is almost killed by the last 30-35 minutes. After the climax of the film concludes, the story begins to slowly drag out towards its conclusion. It truly is a soul sucking ending that almost destroys the film altogether. The last point that the movie has to make could have been trimmed down without losing the meaning and it would have been more powerful.

Still, Pitt and Hill ultimately come out as winners with a sports film that is truly unique. It is more concerned with old and new school techniques. It’s a battle between looking at the character of a player and the player’s statistics and ultimately figuring out which is more important.

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