Monday, November 07, 2011


Moneyball is the best kind of throwback movie, one that feels completely new because it's tackling a subject that hasn't been done by a big movie before and it doesn't bobble the ball. It's a 1970's movie in tone, the kind of high end Robert Altman-type picture with long lenses, a quasi-documentary feel, but looking at great, unvarnished performances.

It feels very, very honest, not just for the naturalistic shooting style, but also because it's a true baseball movie, one of the rare true baseball movies, because it isn't about winning. Baseball, as anyone who really knows the game will tell you, is really about losing and how you handle that, how you tackle that, how you come back from that, and how it happens over and over again. No team in baseball is World Champion forever, no manager has a perfect record, and if you're successful only 1/3 of the time you get up to bat, you're the best player in the game most years.

Brad Pitt carried this project, this adaptation of Michael Lewis' book, from when Steven Soderbergh was going to direct it with a Steve Zaillian script to the current version directed by Bennett Miller (building nicely on his debut feature, Capote) with the Aaron Sorkin rewrite, and he was smart to do so. His Billy Beane, the major league draft who turned down a full Stanford scholarship to underperform all expectations as a player and sought redemption moving up the scouting ranks to General Manager of the then-hapless Oakland A's, is a great, driven, relatable movie character. We're with Pitt the whole way, infusing the leading role with character touches, an easy, flawed guy to root for, especially when he picks up Jonah Hill's Peter Brand character, based on a real-life Ivy League Economics Major who taught Beane the Bill James way of looking at evaluating players, capsizing the entire value proposition of the player salary game.

I'm sure this movie will work fine on a big TV with your Pay-Per-View, HBO, Academy Screener, whatever. It's not spectacularly filled with special effects. It doesn't rely on a throbbing soundtrack or familiar pop tune. It's all about character, story, and how we battle big to make good on regrets.

And it's a pleasure to be in a theater with Beane, Brand, Coach Art Howe and rest of the players. It's actually about something.

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