Moneyball (2011)

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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiAHlZVgXjk[/youtube]

Moneyball (2011)

(12A) Running time: 133 mins

Director: Bennet Miller

Writers: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright

Reviewed by: David Gillespie, official HCF artist

Baseball movies seemed to have had their honeymoon period in the worldwide box office takings during the late eightees to early nineties. Bull Durham (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), Major League (1989) and A League of their Own (1992) all proved to be a success in the United Kingdom after the inevitable popularity in the States.  What proved to be the winning formula was that they were all entertaining yarns and did not rely on a degree on the sport to appreciate them.  Moneyball relies on the same formula. They say that truth can be more far fetched than fiction and Bennet Miller’s drama certainly proves that.  It focuses on how an underachieving baseball team incorporated a framework for success, without splashing out a fortune, that would revolutionise the sport forever.

Oakland A’s Billy Bean (Brad Pitt) is having a career and midlife crisis.  Having only achieved modest success as a promising player and then scout, he is still achieving the same standard as a General Manager. With the smallest budget in the league at his disposal, he is well aware that he needs to find an angle that his lucrative competitors don’t have. That angle comes in the form of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an academic John Motson type who believes that the tried and tested routine of players, managers, coaches, scouts etc creating and determining a winning team through experience and an eye for a player is flawed and subject to error. He argues that a player should not be valued on flair, popularity, looks and style but on their statistical facts and figures such as runs, stolen bases and batting averages. Billy asks for 10 affordable players that fall into these invaluable categories and Peter comes back with a bible of untapped gems.

Change can be a painful thing. When the team’s coach, Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Senior Scout, John Poloni (Jack McGee) and backroom staff realise what their general manager is up to, they rebel in their own ways.  With the season underway and results not going in Oakland A’s favour, the concensus is that the team are either not firing on all cylinders or Billy has just made the biggest mistake of his career.

Moneyball was a movie that was destined to sit at the bottom of the ‘scripts to do pile’ for an eternity. In 2009, Steven Soderbergh was let go by Sony days before the shoot was mean’t to take place. Baseball and statistics just did not seem to be a sexy combination.  Similar to the underlying message being driven at the story’s core, this lack of belief from the film companies regards something a little different proved to be unfounded. Moneyball is a fast moving and entertaining drama with fine performances from the three main players, namely Pitt, Hoffman and Hill. Jonah Hill is highly impressive in the straight man role.  For too long he has been stereotyped as the repulsive slob or party animal. His performance as Peter Brand is subtle, funny and moving. He also present during the movie’s best scenes. Brad Pitt carries the film admirably with his cocksure outer shell but tortured centre of Billy Bean. However I don’t agree with critics who hail this as a potential oscar winning performance.

The script by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin is clever allowing witty interplays between the main players and supporting actors. Just watch the four way telephone player negotiation sequence and fail not to be blown away. Even the predictable fist punch to the air from Hill when they duo get their man raises a satisfactory laugh.

Don’t expect to be watching a feature with plenty of action footage of baseball because most of the action takes place in the office, dimly lit corridors or sweaty locker rooms of the stadium.  Surprisingly for an American sports movie it avoids the usual crowd pleasing techniques that we are all used to.  Or should I add that it does so for the bulk of the running time.

The baseball movie was certainly needing some exciting new direction to get the attendance figures back up and with Moneyball they have hit a home run. This is an intelligent and entertaining film that even those with no interest in baseball will enjoy.  Consider me in the latter category.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

About DAVID GILLESPIE 182 Articles
Fighting for clean bathrooms and restrooms since 1974.

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