“You get on base, we win. You don’t, we lose.”
Moneyball is one of those rare movies where the plot doesn’t really matter. Yes, I said it. The plot doesn’t matter. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ve seen or read something about this film and you already know what it is about whether or not you’ve actually seen it. Perhaps in some regards that could be considered a problem. Many people, myself included, might prefer a story with intriguing twists and turns keeping you on the edge of your seat. Moneyball is not like that. Perhaps it doesn’t have the stereotypical Hollywood ending of literally every other baseball movie, but still it is generally predictable and you know where it is headed most of the time.
Therefore, your question may be, why should I watch it? Why is this film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar if the story is not top-notch? The answer lies in the other Oscar nominations that this film received; Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. In all other categories, this film is a knockout. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill (of all people) are at the top of their game and the rest of the cast is equally as good. Many are calling this Brad Pitt’s best work as an actor and I wouldn’t necessarily challenge that opinion. The direction, while perhaps a bit similar in style to David Fincher’s latest films, and editing are indeed top notch; crisp, emotional, and clean. The music is invigorating and the dialogue is entertaining in both its sincerity and fluency.
This makes Moneyball an interesting movie not because it’s a great story, but because it’s a great movie. Whether or not it deserves to win the academy award for best picture is thus not a straight forward or easy to answer question. What do you think?
Story: Billy Beane is a former baseball player who had lots of potential in his early career. Once he made it to the big leagues, however, it became apparent that he could not adapt. He left his playing career to become a scout for the Oakland Athletics and eventually rose through the ranks to become general manager. Now the team is at a crossroads. After a successful season its three best players are leaving for bigger contracts on other teams, and the ownership simply doesn’t have the money to attract any big-name players to replace them. As a result, Beane is desperate to find a new system of recruiting that will allow his team to have success without needing big name and big dollar players. His answer lies in the theories of Peter Brand, a young scouting agent for a rival team that bases his approach on statistical predictions more so than raw talent or success. It’s a big risk to challenge the traditional approach to team building, and one that Beane devotes himself to completely, for better or for worse…Good (20/25)
Acting: Brad Pitt shines as Billy Beane. It is perhaps his most down-to-earth and genuine character we’ve seen him portray yet, made even better by the emotional depth and onscreen chemistry he exudes. What’s better is that Brad Pitt isn’t the only shining star here. Jonah Hill makes a realistic and likable character in the fictional Peter Brand. This is quite literally a role that you’ve never seen Hill in before and I am happy to say that he fits it well. It is incredibly refreshing to see an actor step out of his traditional roles and show that he can do something different and be a success at it. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t the most emotionally demanding character out there, but you still have to give credit where it is due. Finally, Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the conflicted coach of the Athletics and shows why he is one of the best actors in Hollywood today. Good (24/25)
Direction: Director Bennett Miller does a fine job capturing the emotion of his characters, as well as framing the environment around them in order to enhance that emotional appeal. Perhaps the style of this film seems a bit familiar, almost David Fincher-like at moments, but nonetheless it succeeds in being very clean. Indeed, the film is not meant to be stylish, and therefore the direction is beneficial in not becoming a distraction. The use of flashbacks scenes throughout the picture is important to provide a back story for the main character as well as help to describe some of the emotional impact that comes from being a professional baseball player. This helps the audience better understand the interactions between the various characters. Good (23/25)
Special Effects/ X-Factor: There really aren’t any “special effects”, but the cinematography, lighting and score are all top notch. The music echos the cool and collected direction style, and helps to frame a spotlight on the struggles of the main character. The lighting and cinematography are powerful in creating a realistic environment and also add emotional depth. It is a movie that the audience will easily feel at home watching, even if they don’t like baseball. Perhaps that is the one thing that the film does best above all else. Where other well-received baseball movies such as The Natural or Field of Dreams may be able match Moneyball for its acting or emotion, they require the audience to at least like baseball in order to be engaged. Good (24/25)
Rating: (91/100) = A- (Highly Recommended)
- The Good: A solid performance by Brad Pitt and the supporting cast help create a very entertaining and emotional film that is also very clean, straight-forward, and professionally executed.
- The Bad: A mostly predictable story leaves a little to be desired.
Summary: A baseball movie for those people who don’t really like baseball.
My previous review: Rated: Fright Night (2011)
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