They say maths and sports are two completely different worlds, but when it comes to American baseball, maths is probably the most important thing about the sport itself.
Based on a true story, in 2001, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) was the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team who, at the end of the season, was losing his best players to picky, much richer corporations.
He eventually spots a young Yale graduate Adam Brand (Jonah Hill), who, after hearing his ideas on using statistics instead of dollars to pick teams, Beanes hires him and puts his ideas into practice to ensemble a competitive team.
Beane had been a Major League player before becoming a manager. Though scouts considered him to be phenomenal player, his career in the Major League was disappointing. Now, Beane is worried he might fail as a manager as well.
Moneyball has already got critics excited because of who’s involved in it. It’s directed by Bennett Miller who, a few years ago, directed the award-winning Capote which bio-depicted the great author himself.
It’s written by two Oscar-winning screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and, just to further note, is photographed by Wally Pfister who’s been nominated for almost every film by Christopher Nolan including The Dark Knight and Inception. Because of this, the movie is beautiful to look at but this script is where the film gets its home-run.
The dialogue is smart and at times really funny, although there aren’t as many funny lines as there were in The Social Network. However, what’s terrific about this script is its depiction of the managers of American baseball. The scenes where they sit around the table at meetings and assess how players are valuable financially (or expendable) depending on their looks, age, personality (which is reflected on who they are currently dating) and regardless of how talented they are, is both intriguing an appalling.
There are these wonderfully-made sequences where the film combines archive footage of baseball games with reels of papers with statistics and numbers, along with voice-overs from Hill and Pitt explaining how those factors contribute to the worthiness of players. It’s all edited together so intelligently.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill together almost reminded me of George Clooney and Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air. Both films involve a freshly graduated new hire being acquainted with a veteran in the business, who shows the newcomer the actual process and how to handle employees when letting them go. One of the stories in this multi-layered film is when Adam must learn to face team players when delivering the upsetting news that they have been transferred to different team.
There are also some lovely moments between Billy Beane and his 12-year-old daughter, who has a heart-warming song in the movie’s closing point.
Moneyball will not please die hard sports fans, but if you are looking for a smart, funny, well-made and well-acted film (it is a true story after all) about the business behind competitive sports, this is your movie.