***1/2 (out of 5)
September 23, 2011
Brad Pitt as BILLY BEANE
Jonah Hill as PETER BRAND
Philip Seymour Hoffman as ART HOWE
Robin Wright as SHARON
Directed by: Bennett Miller
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
One of the reasons my wife enjoys being married to me is that I’m not a sports fan. She’s not a football widow on the weekend, and I don’t think I’ve had the television on ESPN, Fox Sports or any of the other 183 other sports stations our cable feed gets. I’m not a typical dude, plain and simple. Because of this, I’m awkward with small talk with other husbands at social gatherings. But I can talk movies with the best of them.
And a good sports movie can still be a good movie to me. In fact, the sign of a good sports movie is that it can transcend the game and be interesting for me. Examples of this include movies like “Field of Dreams,” “Major League” and “The Natural.” For some reason, my favorite sports movies tend to be about baseball, and I haven’t watched a complete baseball game since I went to an Indians game a couple years after Cleveland opened Jacob’s Field.
So the fact that I made it through “Moneyball” with little or not angst is a good sign. It’s not going to top my list of favorite baseball movies, sports movies or even movies released in 2011, but it wasn’t a waste of time.
This true story follows Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland A’s. Beane gets hooked up with a young math whiz named Peter Brant (Jonah Hill), who develops a method of statistical analysis to develop a championship team with only a fraction of the money used by bigger ball clubs like the New York Yankees. “Moneyball” follows their struggle to make their system work and convince the folks in the game to give them a shot.
Oddly enough, it is the baseball scenes in this film that intrigued me the most. Even the moments that were wrapped in minutia – like a last-minute trading grab that Beane and Brant mastermind – left me clueless as to what was actually happened, but it had me engaged. This is not uncommon with the writing of Aaron Sorkin, who co-authored the “Moneyball” screenplay, but then again, I’ve never been a big fan of him.
So what’s my point? It’s that to enjoy this film, you don’t have to be a fan of baseball, or even know anything about the game aside from knowing a bunch of guys head out of the field to smack around some leather balls with wooden bats. “Moneyball” tells an interesting story of how the game is played in the clubhouse and the struggles of a team to make things work.
But the movie does have its flaws. Director Bennett Miller chooses to let things breathe too much at times. I was getting really tired of watching close ups of Brad Pitt’s face as he looks longingly and thoughtfully into the distance. This was almost as tiring as watching the guy eat food and spit tobacco through the role. I know this is a slice of realism, but it’s gross. Who wants too much realism in a Hollywood film anyway? I don’t want to hear Jessica Alba fart her way through a movie as a sex symbol, and I don’t particularly like to see Brad Pitt spit in a cup for two hours.
The other problem this film faces is the ridiculous amount of time spent with Beane’s family. It’s a token grab, hoping to capture the interest of the female audience and the more sensitive viewers. But like the obligatory wife sequences in films like “Glory Road” and “Warrior,” these moments are boring and do not further much of the story.
So, like the 2002 Oakland A’s, “Moneyball” is far from perfect. It has some great moments, but there are plenty of losses along the way.