Moneyball (2011)

Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Based on a true story, Moneyball is a film about baseball, underdogs, and difficult choices. It’s a formula seen before in film, the sports biopic. It usually has the audience leaving with a sense of triumph and satisfaction, as the underdog beats insurmountable odds on the road to victory. Whereas the formula here is similar, it is considerably less effective.

The plot:
Billy Beane (Pitt) is the struggling team manager of the Oakland A’s. Dealing with a minimal budget, he has little hope of competing in the big leagues. Therefore, in an attempt to shake things up, he changes his strategy completely. With the assistance of player analyst Peter Brand (Hill), he begins basing his managing decisions on a very statistical system, which has devastating, but effective, results.

From the plot alone, most people can judge whether or not they are going to enjoy this film. It is very culturally specific, undoubtedly appealing more to audiences in the U.S. of Eyyyy than it would to audiences in Europe. This is simply due to how integral baseball is to their culture, whereas many audience members here won’t know/care about the rules, or understand why it’s such a major part of American identity. (One might even go so far as to add that it is gender specific, instigating the idea that only men like sport…but I personally wouldn’t say this as I don’t want to be beaten with a big feminist-y stick).

The film is drawn out far too long to tell a story that is interesting, but not as interesting as it thinks it is. Pitt does great work as Beane. You can easily imagine him as a real person, with all the little quirks and strange mannerisms he has, just as most people have little nuances that make them unique. He isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but nor is he unlikable. He is simply a man shaking up the system, something all audiences tend to find intriguing in film.

There is very little actual baseball played on-screen. The majority of the film centres on the action behind the scenes. How the players are selected, what positions they play, how much money the team is likely to need. The problem with this is, while it is all well shot and acted, it simply isn’t very engaging. Beane, being a slightly unorthodox personality, holds some interest, but it is too heavy a cross to bear for an entire film.

There are some uplifting scenes, naturally, as this is still an underdog story. But these are mishandled, as you are left with a feeling of futility when walking out of the theatre. Peter Brand attempts to explain at the film’s conclusion the idea that Billy may have lost the battle, but he won the war. So then, shouldn’t there be a feeling of achievement after the credits roll?

With Pitt on top form, and an excellent supporting cast, Moneyball is certainly not a failure, and will surely ring true with some audiences. This may simply be an occasion that I am forced to admit that this was a film I just didn’t get. It is well made, well shot, and well cast. However, despite these admirable achievements, unless you have a keen interest in the sport of baseball, (and even if you do), you are very likely to walk out of this wondering what the point was.

Rating: 6/10

“How can you not get romantic about baseball?” – Billy Beane
(It’s actually surprisingly easy not to)

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • A philosophy that I stick with is that, no matter how bad a film is, it should never be viewed as a waste of time. Because, if nothing else, you will have a standard of film, something to compare other good films to, and which may draw attention to things these films did right that were previously glossed over.
    I mention this purely because it makes the mediocre films worst kind to watch. Bland films, ones that are best described as vanilla, will never be remembered as well as terrible films. I could have been watching 50/50 again.
  • Similarly, the only thing worse than really small kids ruining a film by crying (which they can’t really help), is annoying tweens ruining it by shining a torch around and causing me to start playing ‘Who shall I kill first?’ in my head. Breaking Dawn was in the next room ladies. With the rest of the social rejects.

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