Friday, September 30, 2011

Review - Moneyball

Like the game of baseball itself, Bennett Miller's Moneyball is mostly a slow-moving affair that picks up here and there, but carries a payoff that's well worth it for those who stuck the whole thing out.
Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, player-turned-scout-turned-GM whose promising MLB career fell through and left him embittered towards the whole system. He despairs that the league is governed by a financial hierarchy that sees the rich teams get richer and the poor teams (specifically his own Oakland As) get poorer, and he's equally cynical about the archaic scouting philosophy faithfully practiced by his older staff. Naturally, he's intrigued by the number-crunching sabermetrics of recent Yale graduate Pete Brand (Jonah Hill), a system that emphasizes statistical player projections for runs and wins while minimizing cost. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom about drafting superstar players, but Beane, unsatisfied with what he considers an unaccomplished life, is willing and eager to rock the boat.

Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian's script, while not one that always pops, does brim with ideas, the most prominent of which is the double-edged sword separating promise and result. Having been assured by smooth-talking scouts in his youth that he was destined to become a big league sensation, Beane is all too convinced that the promises based on intuition and judgment of character are worthless. But he's also frustrated to discover that the promises made by numbers and mathematics are equally unreliable, as his team gets off to a rocky start under his radical new regime. It's finding that sweet spot in the middle that proves to be Beane's biggest challenge, but potentially his biggest triumph.

Bennett Miller opts for a direction that's atypical to sports movie standards. Indeed, to call Moneyball a sports movie may be something of a stretch. There are only a few scenes showcasing the actual athletics of the game, and Miller sometimes distracts us with conspicuous interchanges between sound and silence. Otherwise, it's a finely crafted piece of work. Chris Tellefsen's editing finds a nice stride for itself, and Wally Pfister takes a break from his recent spree of action/thiller photography to shoot this picture with a more down-to-earth but no less effective style.

*** out of ****

1 comment:

  1. I would be very interested to see this movie, even though I'm not big on sports movies.