Photobucket

Archive for the ‘Moneyball’ Category

Moneyball – review

Moneyball

PhotobucketMoneyball is the story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane and is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis.  Brad Pitt stars as Beane, a GM who loses his top 3 players (Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen) to free agency after their 2001 playoff season, and loss to the Yankees in the ALDS.  The 2001 A’s where a team that cost under $50 million as opposed to the Yankees team that cost more than double that.  After losing these players, Beane realizes that the system is flawed and teams like his that fight to put together a winning team end up losing all their players because they can no longer afford to pay them after developing them.  The A’s will never be the Yankees of the world, and Beane sets out to find a way to change that, and change how Major League Baseball is operated.

On a trip to Cleveland, Beane runs in to ficitional character Peter Brand (based off a number of members of Beane’s staff) played by Jonah Hill.  Brand is a Yale economics graduate whos first job is analyzing players for the Indians.  Brand sits in on a meeting with Beane and Tribe executives, and subtley influences a trade that seemed like a done deal against Beane.  Beane notices this and talks to Brand, eventually hiring him on and enlisting his help in rebuilding the Oakland A’s… rebuilding them through a sabermetric approach to players, based heavily on on-base percentage.  Brand and Beane soon begin looking for players that it so happens nobody wants anymore, and cost little to nothing.  This is a a completely different approach to organizing a team that ruffles more than a few feathers in the A’s organization ,causing some scouts to quit and a divide with manager Art Howe, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Beane’s methods at first seem to be a complete disaster, as the A’s quickly fall to last place in their division, but it is a concept that he buys into, and Brand buys in to whole heartedly.  They agree to dive into the process 110%.  If they’re going to re-write the game, they’re not going to half-ass it.

Basing a movie off Moneyball the book is not an easy task, as the book is largely based on mathematical analytics and theories surrounding the sabermetric approach to building a team.  That’s why Aaron Sorkin, fresh off his Academy Award winning screenplay for The Social Network, was brought in, along with Steven Zaillian to write the script…a near flawless one at that.

Pitt is remarkable as Beane.  He is an actor that I believe has once again began taking movie roles that have made him a top tier cinematic actor.  I’ve never met any MLB GM’s, but I’m pretty sure this is exactly how they are, rigid and analytical.  Behind all of it is an almost distorted love of the game that Beane has had since he was a child.  Beane was a hot prospect straight out of high school, and was promised the moon by scouts, but like so many players before and after him, he soon realized that he was a mediocre player at best bouncing from team to team to team throughout his career.  The film does a fantastic job of intertwining his back story along the way, as the A’s try to put together this new team, and we really get a glimpse into who Billy is.  We know he has some baggage with his past, and not just because of baseball.  He has to also learn to make time for his daughter, and have a relationship with his ex-wife and her new husband.  Pitt plays a very stoic Beane on the surface, but we can see everything that he holds underneath.  An Oscar worthy yperformance.

Moneyball is unique in the fact that it is a fantastic sports film intertwining footage from actual games along with recreations of some highlights from other games, but like many sports films that are a cliche of the genre, Moneyball is able to cut through with it’s orginality.  Our focus is on the back office and the guys who make the decisions.  We often think of the GM’s and owners of sports teams as the money grubbing buisness end of the games we love.  Who we believe often ruin those games we love.  This is especially evident in the era we live in now with all of the lockouts we see across multiple sports.  The thing is though, that we see how much of a love for the game Beane has in the film, and how far he is willing to go in order to change the game, and win.  Beane did just that.  He changed how baseball teams are created, and his approach is evident and prevelant today.

Moneyball runs a tad bit long, but there is so much to gather during the course of the film and think about. Trying to understand the relationship between the players, and the owners, and the managers, and scouts, and etc. is why it works so well as a sports film, and why it works so well as a film overall.

Grade: A+