"Moneyball" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
"How can you not be romantic about baseball?" That is a questions asked a few times by Brad Pitt's character Billy Beane in "Moneyball", a true story about the Oakland A's and their management in 2002. The main protagonists in this movie are obsessed with the statistics of the game, recruiting ball players who have the best on-base percentage to help them score runs and win games. They are able to do that, going from the nation's lowest-salaried baseball team to winning twenty consecutive games, breaking records for the most consecutive wins. However, this fantastic movie shows how it is not about the game or the statistics that will help the players win, but the heart behind each one of the characters involved.
Beane serves as the general manager of the A's, and has been having an incredibly hard time of getting his team to win, or even advance, to the World Series. He begs his boss for more money to spend on players, increasing their chances to finally win the World Series after a huge dry spell. When his request for more funds is denied, he then starts to look at the statistics of the game, deciding to try and recruit the players with the highest on-base percentage that no other team wants. He recruits Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who has a gift for working with statistics and numbers, to help him on his quest.
As they start to look for players, they recruit ball players such as Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) to play for his team. All of the players have a factor that makes them worthless to the bigger baseball teams in the country. While trying to make this outrageous plan work, he must also convince the main coach, Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), to believe and follow in his plan, which is much easier said than done. What Beane accomplishes is a feat no one would have expected, and helped change the way this team is looked at forever.
Pitt is incredible in this movie. He is able to take this character, and make it his own while also using that signature charm that he has shown Hollywood for many years now. The character of Billy Beane seems like a much more complex character than he lets on, showing how he loves the sport of baseball so much that it drives him crazy at times. Consider the multiple scenes in this movie where Billy freaks out and starts flipping tables or throwing things around the room. He tries to act all calm, cool, and collected, but would someone who doesn't really care about the sport do that?
At the same time, I think Hill serves as a great foil for Pitt's character, and they have great on-screen chemistry together. If Beane is trying to show that he has no emotion about his job and the sport, Brand is there to remind him that this line of work has to deal with people and how they feel about their job in the business. He agrees that the statistics and on-base percentage are very important for the game they are playing, but the whole thing is not about the mathematics. In addition to these two characters, I think Pratt and the actors that play the other baseball players do a great job as well. Each one of them has an injury or are too old to play this sport, and you can see the gratitude they have for the opportunity to play the game they love once again in every scene they are in.
Consider one of the final scenes of the film, where Brand is showing Beane a video in his office about one of their minor league players. The player is overweight, and is scared of running the bases as he doesn't think he will make it. However, he tries one time, and slips and falls after rounding the first base. Everyone starts to laugh at him, which confirms Beane's belief that people are cruel when you're in the limelight like that. However, they are laughing out of joy and excitement as the player hit a home run and didn't realize it. Everyone cheers him on as he is rounding the bases to get to home plate. This is a perfect example for what this movie is trying to go for. They're trying to show that the movie isn't about the superficial numbers, but what actually matters is how badly they want to win. This is perhaps one of the best sport movies that show this layer of depth and the importance of emotions and psychological health.
Overall, I think this is an incredible sports movie that doesn't focus solely on the sport. In fact, we don't even really see much on-screen time of the actual baseball game playing. It takes this plot with these great characters played by amazing actors, and shows how this sport movie is a psychological drama rather than a normal movie about a sports team. It's beautifully heartwarming to watch, and ultimately serves as a feel-good movie that assures the audience everything is alright when it doesn't seem like it.
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