First thing’s first, to get it out of the way: Moneyball really isn’t so much a baseball film as it is an examination of a paradigm shift in a prominent slice of Americana — much like The Social Network was not so much about the Internet as it was about a change in the way we live life on a day-to-day basis with our friends.
But for those who live, breathe and eat baseball, Moneyball explores the origins of the application of statistical science to 21st century sport. And for Oakland Athletics fans, it serves as a vindication of the impressive accomplishments a small-market team achieved on the field earlier this decade (see below).
From a technical aspect, the film is pretty good: the acting is so sublime, you barely notice these aren’t real baseball players. Brad Pitt doesn’t overwhelm the action, although his character — A’s general manager Billy Beane — is certainly the focus of the film. Pitt brings just enough “mildness” to the role that his performance speaks for itself.
Jonah Hill does a great job stealing almost every scene he is in, however, outshining both Pitt and Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (as former A’s manager Art Howe) with his understated interpretation of “Peter Brand”, the Yale-educated puppetmaster behind all the Moneyball concepts.
The pace of the film is really quick: before you know it, you’re almost 100 minutes into the film, and it’s not until the end of the movie — the postscript really, explaining what happens after the A’s lose in the playoffs again — that it slows down to a snail’s pace.
Getting back to the paradigm-shift theme that defines the film, however, it’s all really about the little guy being inventive and finding a new way to build a better mousetrap. It’s American at heart: it’s Tucker all over again, it’s The Bad News Bears (original version, of course) thrown in for good measure, and it’s Rocky in its spirit — the little guy takes on the big guys, and he almost does it.
Better yet, he changes the way everyone thinks, forever.
Sure, as we all know, the A’s never win the “Big One” with Moneyball, but as Brand notes at the end of the film, sometimes you hit a home run without even realizing it. And that’s what Beane and the Oakland organization did: they really made an impact on the game that could never be measured in wins and losses, although it would have been nice to win that last game of the World Series as Pitt says repeatedly in the film.
And for A’s fans who lived through the Moneyball era of disappointing playoff defeats — four straight years, the team lost Game 5 of the American League Division Series — it’s a heart-warming remembrance that will always be preserved on celluloid (or digital bits now, perhaps) of a golden time they spent living and dying with a little team that could — and almost did.
Thus, the team really should package a free, Collector’s Edition DVD of the film with their 2012 season-ticket sales, because everyone knows the A’s can’t compete nowadays since the Red Sox and the Yankees figured out what Oakland was doing and simply outspent them again like before.
Anyone with an interest in the David-versus-Goliath storyline will like this film, and anyone with an interest in the Oakland Athletics will love this film. Baseball fans should like it, simply because it explores the game they love and how it’s changed in the past decade.
It’s actually hard to conceive any audience demographic that wouldn’t like the movie, and that’s simply because we’re all Americans — and we all love seeing the underdog find a ray of light in the darkness. It’s what this country was founded upon: opportunity.
That may seem grandiose, and perhaps it is: go see it and judge for yourself.
One final thought: the song, “The Show”, sung in the film by Beane’s daughter (portrayed by Kerris Dorsey on screen and performed by her off-screen as well), is a nice little ditty you won’t soon get out of your head. Just a warning … Find it on iTunes.