Billy Beane may very well have achieved something great in Oakland during the 2002 season- but from this point forward he will be able to include this statement in the same breath, “Brad Pitt played me in a movie.” MONEYBALL combines two of my biggest passions, it’s a movie and it’s about baseball- beyond that it’s also an underdog story, a story about not settling for second or third best, being scared to believe in yourself….heck at one point it’s even partly about the fact that David Justice doesn’t like paying for soda. Really though, MONEYBALL does what THE SOCIAL NETWORK did just a year ago- it takes an in depth look at the more mundane details of a bigger picture- and it is phenomenal.
MONEYBALL is the true story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and GM Billy Beane, played Brad Pitt. The team made it to the playoffs in 2001 only to be eliminated by the New York Yankees in the Division series. During the off season GM Billy Beane and his scouts were faced with losing three of their best players and needing to replace their numbers on a shoestring budget. With the help of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) the two use an extremely methodical stats system to pick players they can afford to create a winning team. Beane is looked at as crazy as his system fails at first, but begins to miraculously turn around later on in the season.
I have a deep love for baseball- yet I’m also not an Oakland Athletics fan. The beauty here is that you do not have to be an Athletics fan to appreciate MONEYBALL- you don’t even have to be a fan of baseball. MONEYBALL involves the Oakland Athletics, but it is not ABOUT the Oakland Athletics. It’s the story of a former baseball player turned scout, turned General Manager that works against budget constraints to create a winning team- the team just happens to be the Athletics because that’s what happened. In fact there’s even a nice integration of archived footage mixed in to the film. The message and heart of the film is much deeper than being just a movie about scouting and managing baseball.
With a star like Brad Pitt in a film like this it may be hard to separate the star from his character. I myself had trouble at times, but Brad Pitt is a great actor and he still does a fantastic job. Jonah Hill also does an admirable job standing next to Pitt and even Philip Seymour Hoffman in select scenes. MONEYBALL is Pitt’s movie though and he has great comedic timing and delivers all his lines with charisma and charm. The performances all around are great and even the brief moments with Pitt and Hoffman have a sense of tension but also comedy in them.
The thing to know about MONEYBALL is that this is not your typical sports movie. There are in-game sequences but they are not the entire focus. In many ways MONEYBALL has a lot in common with Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar Nominated script from last year THE SOCIAL NETWORK- where it takes a recognizable topic and gives you what happens behind the scenes. Instead of long scenes of play by play games we get lots of stat crunching and Pitt making deals for players or arguing with scouts about who he wants to pick up for the team. MONEYBALL uses lots of smart baseball talk to win over the audience much like Sorkin’s Facebook movie used rapid fire computer lingo to engage the audience.
I do not believe you have to be a baseball fan to enjoy MONEYBALL, but I truly believe anyone who loves baseball will love this film. Baseball hatred can latch on to the great human drama within the film- Pitt’s relationship with his daughter, the friendship between Pitt and Hill, and the way it conveys the overall love of the game Billy Beane had. It was incredibly easy to get lost in how well the movie pushes across the monotony of going through the motions year after year and the driving need to make a change or it can kill the enjoyment of something you once loved. I connected fully with every aspect in regards to Beane’s love of baseball and how fun it is to experience something new amidst the day to day tedious aspects. I also felt the absolute frustration when people refuse to see it from a different perspective and the selfishness that is present not only in sports bit life in general.
MONEYBALL is a quiet film in regards to score- there is a lot of talking so there is no need for loud boisterous music. Baseball lovers will find the general use of baseball jargon and techniques a suitable replacement to a musical score, much as I did. Don’t get me wrong there is a great score it just doesn’t dominate the film. Lots of the best scenes are almost devoid of music at all. The standout scenes for me are the early scenes where Pitt is in meetings with scouts as they argue back and forth, a fantastic monologue at the end when Pitt is meeting with the owner of the Red Sox and the final scene involving Pitt in his car listening to a CD. The two latter scenes pushed me over the edge from loving MONEYBALL to adoring the film outright.
As mentioned earlier on- I believe that MONEYBALL is this year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK for baseball fans. It might be difficult to make the disconnect that Brad Pitt is not playing himself but an influential member in the baseball community- but Pitt still gives a great performance as does everyone else in the film. What it lacks in a truly memorable score it makes up for with witty dialogue that ranges from dramatic to very funny. America’s greatest past-time deserves a film that loves the game as much as the fans and I truly believe that MONEYBALL is that film.