Monday, September 5, 2011


After his Oakland Athletics tanked after going two games up on the Yankees in the first round of the 2001 playoffs and he loses his three best players, General Manager Billy Beane listens to the usual B.S. at the preseason roundup as his scouts talk about bringing in the most bankable athletes. Knowing the system his flawed and have no money to work with, he meets an Ivy League graduate working for the Cleveland Indians front office who hears the same tune and recruits him to come to Oakland and develop a new system: They will take in guys who have been written off, for off field antics or being injury prone, and sign them to the squad as long as they are cheap and can get on base. Beane's new system seems sure to work, if only he can convince the other dinosaurs in the organization to play ball, and if he can get passed his own failures as a former ballplayer. "Moneyball" is remarkable for how unashamedly baseball oriented it is. We are given a few asides about Beane's home life, but this is really the story of how the game works: the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, locker room drama, On base percentages and other statistics, power struggles within management, etc. The film was adapted from a true life book by Michael Lewis entitled Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and director by Bennett Miller, his second outing following the also superb "Capote". It is wonderfully scripted by Oscar winning writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, who touch up the script with intelligent and humorous dialogue. Brad Pitt also delivers a finely tuned and nuanced performance as the unconventional Beane and Jonah Hill has a nice dramatic turn as the Ivy Leaguer. Philip Seymour Hoffman, reteaming with Miller, is typically strong as surly A's manager Art Howe. "Moneyball" made me think of how so many sports movies are made to appeal to a general audience and not really about the game they are depicting at all. Here we have the finest film about baseball since "Bull Durham" and the most in depth film about the game that I can recall.