Sunday, 31 March 2013

FILM: Moneyball (9/10)

Why did I watch it?
Moneyball came onto Sky Movies a while back, I remembered it earning several Academy nominations so thought it was worth recording for a rainy day.

What's it all about?
It's 2002 and the Oakland Athletics baseball team is licking it's wounds following defeat to the rich New York Yankees in the play-offs and being raided for their best players over the close season. General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) realises that his team will never be able to compete with the richer teams financially, in terms of attracting and retaining star players. He recruits Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) from the Cleveland Indians to roll out a recruitment strategy based on average statistics and percentages rather than traditional scouting methods.

Should you watch it?
My knowledge of baseball is very limited (my choice of US sports is football), thankfully however this didn't limit my enjoyment of Moneyball (even if I did have to Google 'on-base percentage', but I got the gist of it). At its heart, the film is a real life underdog story revolving around Billy Beane's unshirking determination and belief in Peter Brand's methods, in the face of extreme consternation and criticism.

"There are rich teams, there are poor teams.
Then there's 50 feet of crap and then there is us"
Moneyball's script was co-written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and the result is a clever and witty narrative that delivers some amusing scenes, usually involving Jonah Hill's shy and uncomfortable Assistant GM Brand. Hill himself is a revelation (Academy nominated for Supporting Actor) in a straight role, playing against his norm yet still being responsible for most of the film's light hearted moments. It seems a shame he even considered starring in The Sitter after this performance. Brad Pitt is another who stands out with an admirable performance as the main character, embodying just the right amount of likeability, softly spoken confidence and self-belief, without crossing into meglomaniac territory, despite practically shutting down his scouting department. When considering the three leading names, Philip Seymour Hoffman seems to be underused as Coach Art Howe, mostly seen standing around in disbelief as his team is dismantled. I would have liked to have seen more of him, given what the man can really bring to a role.

A really enjoyable sports underdog story, and not just for baseball fans.


  1. Good review Mark. Not a great movie, but the cast and writing make it so much better than it had any right to be. Not the kind of sports movie you'd expect to see, and I was fine and dandy with that.

    1. Being based on a true story, it is pretty A-typical for a Hollywood sports movie. An intelligent script for one thing and also the team's achievement was not the clichéd world-consuming success you may have expected if you were not aware of the true story.