Thursday, 10 November 2011

Moneyball

DIRECTED BY: Bennett Miller
WRITTEN BY: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
RATING: 4 stars

I am not a big baseball fan. As a journalist, I certainly am not a numbers person either. Yet, somehow, a film that brings these two themes together moved me, intrigued me and left me feeling satisfied that I had just seen an amazing film where all the stylistic aspects and storytelling came together almost perfectly.

Based on a true story and adapted from Michael Lewis' book, Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), a failed baseball player who is now the general manager of the Oakland A's. Just before the 2002 season, three of his team's best players are bought by other clubs with much bigger budgets. Struggling with a weak team and a very small budget, Billy hires Yale-educated economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who has an alternative theory to creating a successful baseball team – finding cheap players who are undervalued because they are too old or injured to create a unified team. Together, Billy and Peter gamble with their jobs to test their theory out.

Moneyball is not a traditional sports movie and is just as entertaining for non-sports fans. For starters, there is very little focus on the players and the games. When game scenes are shown, it is only to depict pivotal moments in the story and it never drags on like some other sports films. Instead, the film centres around the working relationship between Billy and Peter. There is some very clever dialogue, mostly due to the two excellent screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian (Gangs of New York). You don't watch a sports film to think, right? But in Moneyball you do think – a lot – and not just about the financial ins and outs of running a sporting team, but also about life, family and career choices.

To develop the character of Billy, we are shown several flashback scenes to his childhood and past as a promising baseball player. We also see his heartbreakingly emotional home life as a single father, and little quirky things about his personality like the fact that he never watches a game live. All of these things develop the character, make you care about him and make you all the more enthralled by the story. With a lesser actor, these complexities in Billy may not have been so evident and moving, but Pitt is a seasoned performer. Unfortunately, Pitt's abilities are often overlooked just because he's Brad “The Most Handsome Man In The World” Pitt. But, if he doesn't get an Oscar nomination for Moneyball (or his earlier 2011 film, The Tree of Life), I will be very surprised.

Jonah Hill is also very impressive as Peter. Who knew he was more than a comedian? He still has some funny moments in this film, but he definitely shows he has the capabilities to be a serious actor too. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a good mildly-bad guy coach who doesn't support the alternative style of management. Robin Wright also appears as Billy's ex-wife and Kerris Dorsey is fantastic as Billy's sweet-natured daughter Casey.

Moneyball is smart, emotional and intense. Essentially, it's a film that is not about winning baseball, but about winning at life and taking chances.


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