- Story -
Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane, a low paid manager of Oakland's baseball team, the A's. Their struggling with a very small budget and a lack of wins and so in an act of desperation, he turns to an unlikely method with hopes of improving their success, much to peoples frustration, instead of using intuition and observation, he instead refers to an old theory involving using statistics and maths to hire cheap but unlikely sportsmen with particular averages, in the hopes of turning the clubs fortunes around. Will it work, will they ever make it to the big league games again? this is based on a true story.
- Thoughts & Opinions -
Moneyball is very much an American sports movie, with the main underdog theme running throughout, a very common theme in such movies. It has a good dose of doubts with sceptical characters questioning Billy's tactics and you can't help but wonder how successful the team can be given the clear defects of the new team. Of course, if your familiar with these types of movies then its easy to guess the ultimate outcome, although when it did get to the end (it ends with text across the screen giving the viewer a rundown of what happened afterwards), I was somewhat surprised with what happened - its not entirely positive in a way, although there is an element of admiration that I think they expect you to feel given the decision that Billy made at the end of the day - I suppose its fair to say that the message behind the outcome is quite an American one, to do with community and doing whats right, you get the idea.
Yes this movie is about a baseball team and so there is certainly plenty of baseball footage within it and talk of baseball terms, the science behind the sport and suchlike, so if you have no interest in that whatsoever then this is obviously not for you. I'm not specifically a fan of baseball as a sport as such, though the story, as I say, has more basic messages behind it, in putting faith in unorthodox methods to find that key thing that turns things around and surprises and amazes people, I suppose. It was quite nice to see the less likely people being listened to, particularly Peter Brand, the overweight, glasses wearing mathematically minded man who is hired to be Billy's assistant, much to the surprise of others (in one of the earlier meetings shown in the movie, others there look at him with an element of surprise and suspicion and ask Billy directly 'does he need to be here?' to which he fervently replies 'yes, yes he does' if I recall). This may all seem rather cheesy and bland in which case again, this movie isn't for you as I'd say probably the majority of the movie consists of scenes between Billy and Peter and footage of baseball games themselves, which, at least the matter anyway could either bore or mystify some.
I'd say that where this movie differs from other also loosely based on true story, American sports related movies such as 'The Blind Side', is that its not entirely focussed on one particular underdog character, rather its about the team as a whole. Yes you could easily argue that its all about Billy Beane but its about what he does for the team and where they end up, the principles behind the changes that take place and the response it gets from the outside world, all of that stuff - its close but not quite the same, I suppose. The movie features many scenes which could be seen as rather dry and 'humdrum', although thinking about it, I still managed to watch through to the end of the movie without my mind numbing so much I had to turn over, so it could be worse. There's always the 'based on a true story' tagline which can add an extra interest to such a movie...I can certainly understand the scepticism to the whole idea of basing decisions on who to sign up, on number crunching and statistical patterns - some people seem sure that sport success can never be guaranteed through any amount of maths or science but rather by a keen eye and a real drive etc. but is it true? well, yes you'll have to watch the movie (or look it up on Wikipedia but thats kind of cheating).
Anyway back to my opinions and I'd say that this is an interesting movie, it certainly has some key items as I've said before which you tend to find in American movies, another one being sentimentality, with scenes including Billy going to a someones house with the hopes of signing him up and it turns out (he didn't realise) that he has a young child and there's the somewhat typical/cheesy moment after Billy leaves with the potential signup, their wife and child embracing one another. There are also a couple of scenes involving Billy and his daughter, who is quite shy and plays guitar, offering to sing a little bit of a song, which has, of course, somewhat bittersweet lyrics.
I didn't feel it was a patronising movie, as some could be, not particularly anyway...its not a movie to really grab you entirely I think, certainly not if your not enamored with baseball or sports, yet there is something appealing about it. The ending was interesting and the basic idea of using statistics and trying out a previously perhaps little known theory to drive the team forward, yes its interesting but it is a bit cheesy and it is perhaps a little dry in content in parts. The cast is good, with Brad Pitt giving a decent performance as Billy Beane, as well as Jonah Hill as Peter Brand and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe (who I believe is the head of the team). As an American sports movie, its a solid enough effort, although it isn't a movie to grab everyones attention but if you like this sort of thing then its worth checking out.
- Would I Recommend It? -
As mentioned above, this is a decent American sports movie - yes its cheesy and it centres in on a sport that we may not know a great deal about or have a strong passion for unlike, obviously, Americans but there is something of a story behind it past all the exact details of running speeds and statistics, which kept me watching. I'm pretty sure there have been duller movies made, although this is no fast paced movie but for what it is, its fairly solid. It features a decent cast and as such, if this really interests you then I'd say its worth checking out but it certainly won't be for everyone and if you just see Brads name on the cast and think oh I must see it, it must be worth watching then be sure to have a quick glance at the plot before putting any money over as you may be disappointed (there's no nudity shown for one LOL). I hope this makes sense?.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful and thanks for any and all rates and comments.
Looking at the billing for this and seeing Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill as the main two actors, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're about to watch a comedy. I was certainly expecting this, having not actually seen or read anything about this film before watching it. However, this is far from the truth, the only comedic moments coming from the awkwardness Pitt's character occasionally shows throughout the film.
Pitt plays Billy Beane, fallen baseball star who has taken over as the GM of the Oakland As, a Major League team that struggles to reach the dizzy heights of the better known teams due to its shortfall of funds and lack of clout at the draft each year. Billy has his work cut out as he is quick to recognise that a player can be all he promises on paper and still not deliver on the field. He should know, he's the prime example of someone who should have been Hall of Fame but couldn't even survive a season in the big game.
Based on a true story, this film sees Beane hire Peter Brand, an economics graduate who looks at a player's offensive stats and computer analysis rather than the player himself to work out their worth, and thus ensues a season based solely around a team who can load bases, with not a big gun in sight. The failed pitcher, the first baseman who is scared of a ball being thrown to him, and an ageing star are all part of the motley crew employed to get the As a championship title, and the cast actually do a very good job of leading us through the plot.
Pitt and Hill stand out from the rest, although I'm not sure whether this is just because they are lead names on the list. They certainly get the lion's share of screen time, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman providing the attempted reason as head coach Art Howe who tries to put out the most logical team based on who he sees and the likelihood of winning a game. Beane's idea is taken from Brand, who came across an economics professor's way of predicting the success of a baseball player by eradicating all personality traits, off field antics and age, and looking solely at computer generated stats on the field on offense. What you end up with is an impressive stream of scenes where you see a team transformed slowly but surely from a gang of has beens and never will bes into a team that could challenge for the title.
The true story nature of it may not provide many surprises, but this is more about one man's attempts to give others a shot and prove he has the nouse for the game that he stalled with when he was a player. There's plenty of emotion, and it's a drama that exposes a lot of the acting as opposed to the action taking a front line. It is well scripted and cleverly directed, bravely even given that its running time is longer than similar sports drama films often are. Sports films tend to be either short or focused on the action, and this does neither, kind of providing a different viewpoint to most in its genre. The acting is top notch for the most part, with Pitt providing his usual ease in front of the camera and Hill surprisingly brilliant as the nervous and inexperienced young analyst.
I was very impressed with the film and thought the maturity it presented and the way it told the story were praiseworthy indeed. If you're after an entertaining and interesting drama then Moneyball is certainly worth a watch. I was pleasantly surprised indeed, as this is not normally the sort of film I would choose and I'm glad I did. Recommended.
Star - Brad Pitt
Genre - Sports biopic
Run Time - 133 minutes
County - USA
Certificate - 12A
Awards - 6 Oscar nominations
Blockbusters - £3.00 per night
Amazon - £4.75 DVD (Blue Ray £7.49)
Baseball is sacred in America and so they rarely make a bad film about it, 'Moneyball', yet another homerun. Recently there was a semi subtitled film called Sugar that was harsher that looked at the gentle exploitation of players from South and Central America in the American leagues but apart from that it's all been reverential stuff.
Moneyball was the first baseball movie to get a 'Best Feature Film' Oscar nomination since Field of Dreams, 22 years ago. Alas, as good as American sports movies are they rarely win those Oscars and this failed on all six nominations at the Kodak theatre. With Aaron Sorkin doing the screenplay and Brad Pitt at his charismatic best it really should have got the nod somewhere, a lovely film. Pitt would also receive a best actor nomination for his performance in a leading role in the rather eccentric 'Tree of Life', a 2012 double nominee. He has come along way since being the token totty in Thelma & Louise!
Moneyball was the name given to a factual book by writer Bill Smith that narrates the journey of major league baseball team the Oakland As on a record run of wins, using a revolutionary system of picking good and effective players on the cheap to beat the big teams, pioneered by head coach Billy Beane and his computer nerd sidekick Peter Brand. Beane was a young college baseball prodigy that looked to have everything back in the day but just couldn't cut it in the big leagues, a quietly spoken but forward thinking guy clearly more at home managing teams.
Now known as 'Sabermetrics' (Society for American Baseball Research Metrics), the idea was for the financially handicapped Oakland A's, who had the lowest salary constraint in baseball back then, to try and find value in players no other teams, coaches and scouts had spotted and so exploited, Beane trying to find a competitive advantage that doesn't involve buying in the star players that the As owner could never afford anyway, Oakland's budget $100million less than the top New York teams, down at $38m. The premise is for Brands complex computer algorithm to cough up the best players they can get cheap from the 22,000 or so still playing ball that the Beane knows will produce a certain average in each position. Beane came upon this idea after discovering Brand working as a low level analyst at one of the other clubs with his brain full of this stuff and just waiting to be unleashed on the field and so offers him the job to deploy his math's at the As to rebuild his team.
The controversy of the film is what is not actually in it, the reasons why some of the players were never playing major league or considered for it, that of performance enhancing drugs. Like the word 'oil' is too sensitive to mention on our major broadcasters during our many embarrassing incursions into the Middle East, steroids are not mentioned in Moneyball, yet many players were on the 'juice' at the Oakland A's at that time and we can only presume the players coming in many also have been, this well documented now in the sport press. Pro baseball makes cycling look like it only took aspirin for headaches! But you don't get money to make potential Oscar winning movies if you promote or mention the benefit of performance enhancing drugs in your movie and so that was tipexed out. The star Giambi brothers of the Oakland A's who played under Beane were even involved in the BALCO scandal. Baseball, like cycling, hid all its dirty needles and carried on the charade.
* Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics
* Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, Beane's assistant general manager
* Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, the manager of the Oakland Athletics
* Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg, A's first baseman
* Casey Bond as Chad Bradford, A's submarine relief pitcher
* Stephen Bishop as David Justice, A's outfielder
* Royce Clayton as Miguel Tejada, A's shortstop
* David Hutchison as John Mabry, A's utility player
* Nick Porrazzo as Jeremy Giambi, A's outfielder
* Robin Wright as Sharon, Beane's ex-wife and mother of Casey
* Kerris Dorsey as Casey Beane
Peter Brand: ".....Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn't be to buy players; your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs....."
General team manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) was close to winning the division but can't get his owner to buy the players he really needs to push on and win the league next season and so get a shot at the play-offs and so the World Series, the best of seven championship game. In fact the owner wants to sell his best players, which means to their rivals. To replace those guys its going to be tough, the other owners aware of the A's lack of financial clout, 'the runt of the litter and so organ donors for the bigger clubs', as Beane puts it. Billy is so keen to keep what money they have on the field the players even have to pay for their own soda in the locker room.
So enter the rotund computer geek Peter Brand (Jonah hill), a statistical analyst at the California Angels, who Beane poaches when looking to sign one of their players. Agitated and bumbling, Brand explains his thesis to Beane in the Angels car park and employed by Beane as the Oakland As assistant manger soon after, the plan to deploy his player identification algorithm to build a new team with undervalued and underrated players, and not necessarily like for like, Beane and Brand prepared to buy three average but efficient guys to cover the one position over the season. The idea is to play baseline tennis. Just keep the ball in play and you will be hard to beat and so no need for dazzling passing shots.
This seemingly crazy plan raises major heckles with the head coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the established scouting team as the computer screen spits out some surprise names they should sign, including the rather odd underarm pitcher Chad Bradford (Casey Bond) and a worn-out minor leaguer with a dodgy arm, Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), to play the key position of first base he has never played before.
Peter Brand .....
..............'It's about getting things down to one number. Using the stats the way we read them, we'll find value in players that no one else can see. People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. Age, appearance, personality. Bill James and mathematics cut straight through that. Billy, of the 20,000 notable players for us to consider, I believe that there is a championship team of twenty-five people that we can afford, because everyone else in baseball undervalues them......
As the regular season gets underway it doesn't seem to be working, winning just 3 out of the first 14 games, the coach and scouts threatening to quit if Beane doesn't change his ways. But there are a lot of games in the baseball season and Beane and Brand are determined to make a system work they believe in and once Hatteburg starts to get to grips with first base slot and the team bond, things begin to swing their way and the World Series is not as impossibly far away as it seemed just a month ago.
Billy Beane: If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a sh*t.
As I said, America don't make poor sports movies and especially good at baseball ones, their religion, this a real treat. Director Bennet Miller is not in the business of delivering Rocky or Days of Thunder all over gain but a film more about the nuance and structures of sport, how the people behind the scenes function and live for their sport, the love of the game. In fact the Love of the Game is the name of the third and least scene film in the Kevin Costner baseball trilogy, and on a similar themes and also a must see.
With the best use of actual archive footage in a sports movie yet, Moneyball keeps you engaged from the opening frame to the honest resolution, especially if you are unaware of what actually happened then, as Miller peels back the layers to this entertaining and interesting story on when baseball changed in America. With salaries out of control in British football we could well see something similar here. Brad Pitt is phlegmatic and engaging in the lead and clearly doing his Robert Redford thing, even putting Phillip Seymour-Hoffman in the shade, certainly Pitt's most likeable turn on film.
Sports and Pitt fans alike will love this and it looks great for a surprisingly low budget of $20 million that did an impressive $112 million back in the multiplexes. It's always nice when a good factual and intelligent sports book gets to be made into a likewise movie. Liverpool football club owner William John Henry also gets a cameo as he plays himself as the Boston Red Sox owner that he currently is and was.
British sports biopic and films tend to be dreadful and you have to go back to Chariots of fire for a decent one so you look forward to American sports movies. The only real problem here is the film misses out all the nasty stuff from the book, like the steroid abuse, the stuff that sent the team on the record breaking run in the first placed. It also suggests Beane built the team from scratch when in fact he kept a lot of the previous season's players. The film wants you to believe it's the math's and the algorithm, and not the 'roids' and corked bats, that made the difference. The latter would be a very different movie. American filmmakers are not prepared to destroy the wholesome baseball myth that the American dream is supposed to be about.
Imdb.com - 7.6/10.0 (128,435 votes)
Metacritc.com - 87% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 95% critic's approval
Empire Magazine -"You don't need to understand anything of baseball to get behind this, a chest-swelling story about second chances and flipping a finger up (even a giant foam one) to The Man"
The Telegraph - 'Two features into his directing career, Bennett Miller has managed to refresh not only the traditional biopic, but the inspirational sports drama as well'.
Movie Metropolis -'Jerry Maguire just got some overdue company with Moneyball, which features Pitt and Hill in perhaps their most likable roles'.
Movie News - 'It seems odd that a movie based on a non-fiction book that is very heavy on statistics and number crunching could be an enjoyable, engrossing, and wonderful piece of cinema, but this movie is the proof'.
= = = = = Special Features = = = = =
- - Bloopers - -
Behind the scenes silliness from cast & crew
- -Deleted Scenes - -
Quite a few
- - Photos - -
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