Moneyball – alternative poster courtesy of Suspend Your Disbelief
It was my birthday today, and I spent a quiet evening in with my parents eating cheese (blog updates passim ad nauseam). We decided to watch one of my birthday presents, Moneyball, probably the first baseball/economics hybrid film ever made for public consumption. To be honest, the other choices were either Game of Thrones (hardly parent friendly) or season 5 of 30 Rock, most of which would be spent with me filling in the past 4 years of back story. Honestly, how do you describe Liz and Jack’s relationship in one sentence? Impossible! But I’m getting off topic…
Moneyball is about the Oakland Athletics baseball team, who have practically no money in comparison to the big franchises in Major League Baseball, such as the Yankees and the White Sox. Moneyball is that curious thing for a British viewer – a gripping film about a sport we don’t play AND an underdog film where you don’t really find yourself rooting for the team, which is good, because they don’t win anyway. Instead, you find yourself rooting for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill’s characters, and the fact that they want to change a broken system their way. Personally, I was drawn to the film by Aaron Sorkin’s screenwriting credit, and his trademark patter is evident in a few scenes, though sadly lacking in the humour that turned The Social Network into a great big pile of win.
Brad Pitt is obviously the big draw to a lot of viewers, and, like Clooney in The Descendants, he shows here that he has the dramatic acting chops to justify his fame that don’t require him to strip semi-naked and fight people (sorry ladies). His portrayal of Billy Beane is understated with a bubbling tension that we really get to see when he is alone. Jonah Hill is marvellous too, showing that his stock rabbit-in-headlights character doesn’t need to make fart jokes in order to make him enjoyable. My only real criticism of the film is a chronic under-use of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, the coach of the A’s. We see him walk about a bit and generally be unhelpful, but we get no reason why. The film is 2 hours long, they could have had more PSH and a bit less of Brad Pitt driving his car around Californian wasteland. It’s a slow burner, and the ending is probably more unsatisfactory to the underdog-loving Brit than the American baseball fan who knew what was coming, but it is certainly a film worth watching, if for nothing else than the scene with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and about 8 different people on different telephone lines trying to make a deal. That has Sorkin written all over it.