Film review: MoneyballBy Joe Finnerty
March 29, 2012
THE underdog story of a sportsman winning against all the odds is usually a recipe for a box-office hit but not always for critical acclaim.
Rocky or Jerry McGuire drop into this category but with Moneyball you get something equally enjoyable but altogether more thoughtful and complex and with a host of award nominations to its name.
Everybody loves a David versus Goliath battle and Hollywood directors live for that slow motion moment depicting the winning touchdown or home run.
And Moneyball doesn’t disappoint. It tells the true story of how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) took a radical approach to building a team and changed the face of baseball.
The film starts with Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, watching his team crash out of the playoffs and his star players leave for big money contracts to rival clubs.
The A’s, the second poorest team in Major League Baseball, just can’t compete and have to find a way to make ends meet. Supported by economic-whizz Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) the film follows the team through its remarkable 2002 season.
The crux of the story revolves around the way baseball players are scouted and the impact of the introduction of statistics and computer-analysis is intertwined with how Beane’s own career shaped him as a manager.
The film follows a successful book by Michael Lewis and it could easily come across as sounding dull and too numbers-driven. However, the film manages to steer around the economics and avoid getting bogged down, making sure it focuses on the people and the baseball.
Pitt and Hill are a good double act and provide comedy moments throughout and Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a decent part as the stubborn head coach Art Howe.
Fortunately there is no real love interest to muddy the waters and you have to wonder had it been a Hollywood original rather than a true story we might have found a leading lady in an all too predictable and unnecessary role.
But the director Bennett Miller and his team stayed true to the facts. The archive footage from the 2002 season are mixed brilliantly with the re-enacted scenes and such is the attention to detail you don't notice the joins at all.
In fact such is the unbelievable nature of the story, there was no need to tweak it to make it the perfect underdog story.
One word of warning would be to non-baseball or US sports fans, who might find the positions, rules and trading of players hard to follow at first but once it gets going it’s not too hard to grasp.
Moneyball is a good film that is easy to watch and the rags-to-riches tale will appeal to fans of the sports film genre. The fact it is a true story makes it all the more remarkable and the strong cast ensure it is well worth a watch.