This is not that film. It's better than that film.
The focus on facts, figures, sabermetrics and cold, hard stats never competes with the human beings batting those stats around in their heads. “Moneyball,” which took years and several false starts to come to fruition, fixes on the story of
How Beane budgeted and strategized his way to the playoffs, with the second-lowest payroll in the majors, hinged on buying a motley crew of underdogs who weren't pretty, or expensive. But they could get on base.
Everything in Beane’s story and in “Moneyball” could’ve been rendered dull or sappy or both by a lesser director. It is, at heart, about a man out to redeem himself. As a middle-class suburban San Diego high schooler, Beane was a hotly pursued star athlete, fielding, among other offers, a joint baseball-football
Years later Beane found himself in Oakland, presiding as general manager over the A’s and knocking around the clubhouse described in Michael Lewis’s Öexcellent book (also called “Moneyball”) as “the cheapest and least charming real estate in professional baseball.” The team was in pain. The
Into Beane’s life came Harvard graduate Paul DePodesta. To simplify, probably in a way that will cause
The DePodesta equivalent in “Moneyball” is a
Zaillian’s sense of structure dovetails unusually well with Sorkin’s verbal acuity. Offhanded comments such as “If he’s a good hitter, why don’t he hit good?” don’t sound writerly; they sound right. There’s a calm and honest tone to “Moneyball,” so that when Bennett lingers a second on a shot (inside a flashback) of young Beane shaking hands with the Mets recruiter, we catch the look of doubt in Beane’s father’s eyes. As A's manager Art Howe,
With “Capote” six years ago, director Miller made his first non-
The film lacks a few things. Despite some offhanded outbursts, we never really see the dangerous side to Beane, the demons that messed him up as a player. The coda's on the sentimental side. The script's third act may frustrate sports movie fans conditioned to expect a certain kind of wow. But "Moneyball" can't make more of what the A's achieved than this. Otherwise it'd be phony.
I love Miller’s straight-ahead, steady-gaze approach to the subject, and to filmmaking. Last year’s Oscar-winning cinematographer,
'Moneyball' -- 4 stars
PG-13 (for some strong language)
Brad Pitt (Billy Beane); Jonah Hill (Peter Brand); Philip Seymour Hoffman (Art Howe); Robin Wright (Sharon); Kerris Dorsey (Casey)
Directed by Bennett Miller; written by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Michael Lewis; produced by