Moneyball (2011)

Brad Pitt in Moneyball (2011)

I admire Moneyball for telling a story of baseball and statistics without embellishing with a romantic subplot – unless you include the professional chemistry between Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his number-crunching number two, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). I also admire its ability to make that story engaging, with its confident approach defined by crisp cinematography and dialogue alike.

As much as I admire Moneyball, I didn’t actually like it all that much. Given that it’s firmly set in the hyper-masculine milieu of professional baseball, the lack of relevant female characters is disappointing yet forgivable. But that’s not what left me feeling underwhelmed; rather it was the philosophy the script espoused.

Beane succeeds by ploughing ahead with a strategy in which he has unquestioned faith, neither acceding to a compromise in line with his colleague’s traditional methods (understandable) nor adequately justifying his methods (less understandable). Objections that would seem pertinent to a film called Moneyball eg that a player’s worth is sometimes in his public image for marketing purposes, not winning games – are never raised. The film argues success comes from stubbornly insisting upon your way until it works. Accurate? Perhaps, but it left a sour taste.

2.5 stars

12 thoughts on “Moneyball (2011)

    • I dunno. Like, I agree that there was real chemistry there – that actress was fantastic! – but it felt so incidental to the storyline (it seems to only be there to explain why Beane didn’t take the $12.5m offer at the end), and I wouldn’t really call the daughter a “character” in any meaningful sense. I did like those scenes, though.

  1. Good review Dave. The sport of baseball has never quite interested (even though I somehow found myself playing it during seventh grade), but its movies always seem to make it so. Don’t know why that is.

    • Yeah, it does seem to translate to film easily without having to necessarily rely on the same clichés every time. I’ve never played or watched a game of baseball (softball, teeball, I’ve played, if they count), but I was definitely fully engaged in the games in this film. They did a great job of portraying them, conveying information with economy but still maintaining that heartpounding sense of tension.

  2. I haven’t seen this one, but you haven’t made me want to run out and that change. Seems decent, but not great. About what I expected when it was released.

    Good review.

    • I know a few people who defend it as properly great – I got around to watching it because a friend told me it was his favourite film of all time! – but I can’t say I agree.

  3. Good stuff Dave! I actually saw this a bit differently. I remember that Oakland A’s team so well and it wasn’t a case of Beane just being set in his ways. He faced a number of obstacles including miniscule payroll restrictions and aging talent that would hurt more than help any chance they had at winning. I saw him as more of a gambler. He went with a formula that he had to completely invest in or it would never work. And of course the risk was his job (and potentially his career) if it didn’t work. I found all of that pretty compelling and I did think the film did a pretty good job with it.

    • Oh, yeah, I appreciate all that, and it’s not necessarily the commitment or totality of the formula that I took issue with. Basically, what I was hoping for was more of a sense of how he got around the obstacles he faced from his colleagues – what we saw was him steamrolling anyone he could, for the most part, but I did appreciate the trickiness in how he got around PSH’s character’s objections. But it felt like it was missing a conversation justifying himself and, as I said, I really would’ve liked someone to explain that the success of a sporting team is generally based on how much money it can make (which is based on audience/interest) and that is rooted in how much the team wins but also its marquee, marketable players.

  4. Awesome stuff, bud :). I rather enjoy this flick, so much to be blown away by, especially the performances. The story, from a non-baseball fan perspective, really managed to capture me. Totally get what you mean though when you say that there isn’t a lot cinematically here, but that’s to be expected.

    • Thanks – there’s definitely a lot to like; I can’t really fault the performances nor the photography, and the story is engaging. I just kinda wish there was a little more to it.

  5. Good review. I could appreciate the skill in this one but I ultimately found it pretty boring. I was told before I saw it that it didn’t matter if you were into baseball or not but I’m not sure about that. I know nothing about baseball and I think that really made it hard for me to get emotionally involved or to fully understand what they were doing. Maybe if it was about cricket…

    • Haha, I would’ve loved a film like this about cricket; that’s one sport where I find the statistics absolutely fascinating (the cricket movies I’ve seen – eg the telemovie Bodyline with Hugo Weaving – haven’t done much for me though). This one did keep me engaged despite not having any interest in baseball, though.

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