Written by Markus Robinson (Giants fan), Edited by Nicole I. Ashland (A’s fan)
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
What director Bennett Miller (Capote) has created with his new film “Moneyball” is only the best looking baseball movie of all time (and the best baseball film to come out in a LONG time). With that said, you add in two award winning screenplay writers in Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian and an all-star cast lead by Brad Pitt (Inglorious Basterds, The Tree of Life), it’s a wonder why this recipe for success took so long to make.
Synopsis: After Jason Isringhausen, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon left the Oakland Athletics at the end of the 2001 season, things looked bleak for the franchise (some things never change), who, much like many of the other teams in the Major’s with next to no payroll, were seen as farming systems for teams like the New York Yankees. “Moneyball” is the story of Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt for some reason), the Oakland Athletics general manager, who attempted (with the help of Paul DePodesta aka Peter Brand played by a miscast Jonah Hill) to make his baseball team a contender using a minimal payroll. Does he end up succeeding? Have you been to an A’s game lately?! Ok, enough of my A’s bashing, what this film is (in Brat Pitt’s words) is “a film about a guy who doesn’t win the trophy” and in this reviewers opinion is done in a pretty entertaining and engaging fashion (credit the director and the writers). Furthermore let’s face it, the film isn’t about Scott Hatteberg, or the three star pitchers that really got them into that winning position in 2002 but are strangely excluded from this film all together (Hudson, Zito and Mulder), or even the Moneyball concept (which is a good thing for those of you who hate math). This movie is about the redemption story of BILLY BEANE (and to a lesser extent Paul DePodesta), who in real life are not very well liked people, but in this movie their characters are so likeable and the underdog storyline is so good, that “Moneyball” has the potential to make audiences forget that Billy Beane is a large reason why the Oakland A’s are considered a laughing stock of Major League Baseball and even forget that the Moneyball concept didn’t end up working at the end of the day (at least not for the Oakland A’s). In the end, this film does what many Oakland A’s fans had deemed impossible; “Moneyball” makes Billy Beane likeable.
About the concept: If you don’t like baseball, then skip this next paragraph. It is hard to say what the concept of Moneyball entails in a nutshell because the concept is very dense when you begin to read about it, but basically what Beane and DePodesta did was find players which were undervalued (aka one he could get for cheap) by looking beyond the traditional statistics (like batting averages and RBI’s) and focusing on disregarded stats (like on base percentage and slugging percentage), which many theorists considered to be a better gauge of a players ability to create runs. A Bill James idea.
Side Note: The concept of Moneyball would have been better served if they were to make a film about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, rather than the Oakland A’s. But that is just my opinion.
Now back to the movie critique: As for the actual movie itself, the acting here is nothing special. Jonah Hill should (much like Seth Rogen) stick to poo humor, because in this somewhat serious drama he seems kind of useless as he meanders about trading lines with these dramatic acting powerhouses. As for Pitt, even though he is very much a leading man and by playing Billy Beane proves that he can pretty much play any role, this is not a performance that he will be remembered for. And by the way, the only thing the actual Billy Beane and Brad Pitt aesthetically have in common is that unfortunate hairstyle that Pitt adorned in this movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) however does shine in his controversial roll manager as the A’s Art Howe, but isn’t in the film as much as he should have been. The writing from Aaron Sorkin (in my opinion the best screenplay writer of this era) and Steven Zaillian (who wrote “Schindler’s List”; enough said) allows the dense concept of the “Moneyball” dialogue to flow with ease, but their efforts may not be Oscar worthy. The award winning conversation when talking about “Moneyball” must start and end with the Miller, who (as I stated prior) directs the best looking baseball film (and one of the best looking sports films) of all time. The original source material, the Michael Lewis’ novel “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”, while a very compelling read (if you are a BASEBALL FAN), is very dense and seemed almost un-filmable. BUT, give credit to Sorkin and Zaillian for coming up with a people friendly story and more credit to Miller, who took this concept and made it visually outstanding even when the script becomes tedious at times. And to think, Steven Soderbergh was the first pick to direct this film. What a loss that would have been. It comes down to this; the construction (interpretation) of this film on screen should be more admired than the actual storyline of the film itself.
Side Note: Obviously in a movie like “Moneyball” (which is BASED on a true story), there is going to be someone with their feathers ruffled (that means angered) by how they were portrayed in the film. One would have thought that person would have been Paul DePodesta because he openly refused to have his name used in the actual film; hence the fictional name of Peter Brand was used. But it surprisingly wasn’t DePodesta that came out publicly against this film, but then manager Art Howe (played by Hoffman), who felt that he was portrayed in a bad light, as he was the main antagonist of the Beane character in the film. Furthermore he claimed (and rightly so) that much of the details of the story were fabricated for Hollywood. And while this all may be true, the semi-fictionalized version of the “Moneyball” events made for a much better film than what actually happened, I’m sure.
Final Thought: If you don’t know much about Oakland A’s baseball, don’t worry you are not alone. Although parts of this film are not “traditional” sports movie fodder and there are some overall humorous moments in the dialogue, which one would think would appeal to a wide array of movie-goers, truthfully, I will disagree with those critics who say that this film will entertain even your average non-baseball fan. While this review is a recommendation to go see “Moneyball” (even though recommending a movie about the A’s could get me banned from AT&T Park. Go Giants), especially because it is more of a redemption story (like a non-racist “Blindside) than anything else, there still may be some that will be turned off by the whole Sabermetrics aspect, which is still the backbone of this film.