Thursday, September 8, 2011
The style of the film follows the template that was used by Aaron Sorkin in "the Social Network" (2010), which is necessary when creating a film based on a book like "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" that was written by Michael Lewis. It is a great book, but difficult to envision as a film at times as it is more of a documentary of actual events. Where Aaron Sorkin comes in is his ability to breathe life into the characters and with the assistance from Bennett Miller as the director this is accomplished very well. This isn't the first time that Bennett Miller has been tasked with such a difficult film as he also accomplished this well with "Capote" (2005).
The film provides a balance between Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics in 2002 and flashbacks to his being drafted by the New York Mets in 1980. The flashbacks depict the old way of scouting a professional baseball player and counter balanced with the difficulties in the business side of running a professional baseball team in a small market and forced to compete with the big market clubs like the New York Yankees. Coming off the 2001 season where the Oakland A's reached the ALDS losing to the New York Yankees the team lost major talent. In the off-season Billy and his scouts had to rebuild the team and after a meeting with the Cleveland Indians he met Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who is based on Paul DePodesta from the book who is a Harvard graduate with a degree in Economics. Peter Brand introduces a new way of thinking about the game of baseball based on a philosophy that the goal shouldn't be to buy players, but rather to buy wins. In order to buy wins you need to buy runs, and to get those runs you need to get on-base.
The film has a mix of "Major League" (1989) as well as "the Natural" (1984) providing dramatic character development by introducing the personal life of Billy Beane and showing how his approach to the game changes from being hands-off to becoming more personable and responsive to the players on the team. This growth is very well accomplished by Brad Pitt as well as his comic timing with Jonah Hill. With a relatively small, but important, role is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Oakland Athletics Manager Art Howe. He doesn't have a lot of lines in the film, but he carries himself in such a brilliant way that even how he walks through the office or pours himself a coffee demonstrates the disproval that Art Howe had for Billy Beane and the difficulties of putting together a competitive team on a small budget.
There was a lot of stock footage used that while it provided dramatic effect was somewhat distracting at times. However, the most distracting is something I noticed several years ago that Brad Pitt is constantly eating or doing something with his mouth in almost every movie now.
Like "the Social Network" I can see this film receiving numerous nominations; however in the same fashion it likely won't win all of them. Most likely nominations include Aaron Sorkin for Adapted Screenplay, Brad Pitt for Actor, Jonah Hill or Philip Seymour Hoffman for Supporting Actor, and some sound or editing nominations. This is another 4 Quack film that compliments the book from Michael Lewis rather well.
(screening date 8/7/11, release date 8/23/11, location AMC Loews Georgetown)