Saturday, September 24, 2011

Box Office Review - Moneyball

There were two things I had problems with in Moneyball. The first being the back story for Brad Pitt′s character Billy Beane. I didn’t understand the point of showing his history, but then the film revealed why these parts are important, and it makes perfect sense. The second thing I had a problem with was the inclusion of the scenes with Beane and his daughter Casey. As with my first problem, the film reveals why the showing of this relationship is integral to the story, and again it makes perfect sense. What I am trying to say is that by the time I walked out of the film, I didn’t have any problems with it.

Billy Beane is the GM for the Oakland A's, and in 2001 he took a major risk in order to craft a championship team on the cheap. With the help of Peter DePodesta (Peter Brand in the film) Beane employed what is called Sabermetrics to achieve his goal. While Sabermetrics is all about stat analysis, but this in no way makes for an uninteresting film.

Moneyball shows the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that happens in Major League Baseball, and how this affects the teams. Basically if you have big money you get big wins. If you don’t, well things will be much harder. The message in the film is that you need to take risks in order to change things, and watching Brad Pitt risking it all makes for great entertainment. I swear that Pitt bases his performances around eating food. In the Ocean films he always has food in his hands, and he does the same thing in this. When he isn’t putting food in his mouth, he is delivering impassioned speeches to everyone around him (including himself). Pitt brings the perfect mix of charisma and go for broke attitude to the character of Beane. He also is more than capable of showing how much risking everything must have weighed on Beane, and by the end of the film I was really pulling for him. Pitt also makes the unlikely business relationship between Beane and Peter Brand one of the best parts of the film, but Jonah Hill also deserves credit for this. Hill did an impressive job playing the genius kid unaware of what he was getting into. Just the two of them talking provided the best scenes in the movie. The rest of the roles in the movie are small, but are performed nicely by actors such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, and an uncredited Spike Jonse.

While the majority of the film takes place in back offices, there are multiple scenes of the Oakland A's doing there thing. These sequences are filmed very well, and I was impressed with director Bennett Miller′s approach. He showed a lot of restraint, and as a result the baseball scenes don’t look like any I had seen before. I particular shot that stood out was when an apposing team’s player hits a home run. Rather than show the ball heading off into the stands, the camera stays focused on the players face. Just by this actors expression, you can tell what has happened. I do like this style of restrained film making.

Baseball isn’t a sport I follow or have much interest in. I don’t think I could name a single current player in the Major leagues. I can say though, that even with my limited knowledge, I could tell that this film captures the magic of the sport that past Baseball films like Field of Dreams and The Natural also captured. This coming from a film that focuses more on the behind the scenes going ons than the game itself. This is a great feat, and I think that Moneyball will please both fans and non-fans of America’s pastime.

A Gold Banana

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