Saturday, September 24, 2011

Moneyball 2011: Review

An Oscar Nomination worthy performance from Pitt carries this film to be one of my favorites of the year

Billy Beane helped mainstream better statistical analysis in Major League Baseball so that teams no longer relied on gut instinct and old cliches for projecting player performance.  Beane has been accused of removing the romanticism out of baseball, by those who felt threatened by the fact that they were no longer qualified to do their jobs.  While a cool and calculating analysis of baseball by the numbers makes for fascinating baseball studies, making a film about this subject matter seemed like a fool's errand (as Family Guy so eloquently put it, Bill James made baseball as fun as doing your taxes).  How did this film become entertaining?

Moneyball accomplished this by doing exactly what they warn against: they romanticize the story.  This story has an underdog hero, Bean (Brad Pitt) and his faithful sidekick (played by Jonah Hill) and a series of "villains" (the stubbornness of "old school baseball guys") who try and stop them from achieving their quest.  All that was missing was a damsel in distress.

While all of that was very entertaining (thanks to Pitt and Hill having great chemistry and being well-developed characters), the film hardly feels like a complete story if you have any knowledge of baseball since 2001.  While Beane is portrayed to be a romanticized hero, right now it feels more like a greek tragedy, as Beane is a man who passed on the largest GM salary in the history of sports, only to have his strategy be used by richer teams who are beating Beane at his own game.  This is evident by the fact that Beane's Athletics have not made the playoffs since 2006.

Even by the film's modest goals of chronically just the 2002 season, the film fails to point out all the great talented players that were on the Athletics still, even after losing Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen after 2001.  The film makes it seem that David Justice, Chad Bradford, and Scott Hattenberg carried the team to the 2002 playoffs when instead the team was far more reliant on Miguel Tejada (who was the AL MVP that year) and their dazzling trio of starting pitchers, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito.

While those frustrations existed for me, I am willing to forgive it because the film was simply more interested in telling the tale from a behind the scenes perspective: the scope of the film was narrow, but what they did was fantastic.

I highly recommend that you see this film

Rating: 7.5/10  

Other Thoughts


- I can't imagine that Art Howe was too pleased with his portrayal by Philip Seymour Hoffman

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