Sunday, January 8, 2012

Movie Review: Moneyball

Movie Title: Moneyball
Bennett Miller
Actor(s): Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill
Language: English
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama
Theme: Baseball, based on a true story
Run Time: 133 mins
DVD Release Date: 10 January 2012
My Rating:

Synopsis (Amazon): Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane - with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) - develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.

**The Following Review May Contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I saw a review somewhere on Amazon that said, "'ve got to LOVE baseball to like this movie." I am still trying to figure out if that is true. Here is the deal. I went into watching this movie because:

1) Brad Pitt is in it and despite all the annoying attention he gets because he is Angelina's other half, he is one of the most under-rated actors out there.
2) I love a good drama, especially about underdogs.
3) Oscar Buzz (yes, it's that time of year)

Am I a fan of baseball? No. Actually, it's probably one of my least favorite sports and I know the bare minimum when it comes to the positions, rules, teams, players, etc. Other then watching a baseball school game or when my dad and brother have it turned on (they are big fans), I don't think I've ever watched a baseball game all the way through, from beginning to end.

That being said, here are my thoughts, starting with Brad. Do I think this was his best performance? No, but I think this was one of his BETTER performances. Pitt's character definitely had me convinced that he was Billy Beane, the stretched out GM of the Oakland Atlantics. I could feel his frustration with every sudden outburst he had on screen. One of the more tender moments had nothing to do with baseball-- it was when he was sitting in the music store with his daughter, watching her play the guitar and convincing her to sing out loud. The lyrics of the song comes full circle in the end. You'll see what I mean.

Now to the movie itself. I was worried first going into it because again, I don't know much about baseball. I was right to be worried because I will admit, there were some parts that I didn't understand. I would get the general idea, but not the full concept or importance of some of the business talk in the film. For example, when Billy and Peter (Jonah Hill's character) are trading players over the phone, it was a bit confusing. While it was supposed to be serious, I think it also was meant to be a bit comical, which I missed out on because of my lack of knowledge. My responses were prompted by their facial expressions or the air pumping of their fists.

That being said, I liked Moneyball because it leaned more towards a character driven drama then a classic baseball tale. And because of this, I can appreciate the film from that aspect. This is why some hardcore baseball fans found the movie boring. They were going into it expecting tons of baseball action. They were expecting the film to focus more on shots of the players in the locker room to the drama out on the field. Instead, the camera rarely leaves Billy Beane's world. Even when he and Peter finally get the players they think will change the game to sign on, we don't get to see the players actually play for quite awhile. And when the games ARE going on, the camera follows Billy around as he works out his anxiety in the gym room (apparently, Billy Beane did not actually watch most of the games for fear of bad luck).

I don't think you have to LOVE baseball to like the movie. I think you have to have a basic understanding of the sport to fully appreciate what it is trying to accomplish, and also go into it knowing that this is not your traditional baseball movie. The movie is not filled with 15-20 minute chunks of baseball in action. You're more likely to see a few 2 minutes clips of the real footage (the movie is based on a true story after all) throughout the film and then some short scenes of players actually playing the game.

Overall, Moneyball was a good, solid drama. While I had a little bit of trouble following the baseball politics, I did understand in general what Billy Beane was trying to do for his underdog team and change the way people look at the sport. Like Jonah Hill's character says in the beginning, GM goals shouldn't be about buying players. It should be about buying wins. Speaking of Jonah Hill, I was pleasantly surprised by his humble, serious performance. He normally plays in comedies, so I give him and whoever gave him a shot for the role major kudos. As a matter of fact, I think the acting is one of the biggest strengths of this movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman had a small part but hell, he is so good at being a chameleon that I didn't even realize it was him at first.

If there was one thing I would've added to give Moneyball a 5 star rating, instead of 4, it would be more scenes of the "misfit" players Billy Beane hires. Most of the people in Billy's tight circle absolutely detest his decisions for hiring these specific players, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman's character that refuses to even put them in the positions Billy hires them for. I just would have liked some more scenes maybe about their backgrounds, their frustrations, etc. It would have added a little more pull on the heartstrings.

Do I think the movie is Oscar worthy? For a nomination, definitely. For the win, not so sure. Do I think Brad should be nominated? Yes! Win? It was a solid, convincing performance. Until I view some of the other leads, I will just leave it at that!

Moneyball will be available on dvd and blu-ray on Tuesday, Jan. 10th!


Other thoughts: I look forward to seeing Brad Pitt in the highly anticipated novel-turning-into-a movie World War Z hitting theaters in December 2012.

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