The formula for your everyday sports film is one that most people can recite off the top of their heads: Each failure off the field turns out to be an elaborate and orchestrated move that helps lovable characters win on the field. There’s really nothing wrong with it, other than it’s all too familiar.
Moneyball takes a large chunk out of the formula, deletes some and rearranges other parts of it. It follows the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, Billy Beane, and takes a look at the sport of baseball rather than the season-winning game.
Beane (Brad Pitt) is still grieving from a close loss in the previous season. To add insult to injury, he has to play against teams who have several times his budget and strip him of three pivotal players. He knows his little coin can’t buy big talent, and understands the difference needs to be found off the field.
Unfortunately his present management team uses dinosaur-recruiting philosophies, judging players by their idiosyncrasies and if their girlfriends are ugly.
During a meeting with a rival club he comes across Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is a pudgy Yale graduate who uses his degree in economics to reduce a player’s on-field performance to a single number, and his modern perspective appeals to Beane’s yearning for a fresh approach to the changing game.
The two use maths and science to create a team of misfits who have been labelled too old, injured or funny looking. The media, the public and even their colleagues swiftly claim the team is dead; heightening the very real risk that Beane could not only lose his job, but his career in the industry.
It might not read like much, but the hardball negotiations that take place off the field infuse this flick with a lot of action. Much in the same way The Social Network makes complex computing accessible to the masses, Moneyball makes baseball, its slang and mathematical analysis intriguing. Its no surprise to see as both films share screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
At first audiences aren’t sure if Beane loves baseball, choosing to not watch games, deliver inspirational speeches or even mingle with the players and it’s not until an adorned montage that audiences see the logic, frailty and discipline behind his strict practices.
Beane doesn’t look at a game’s final score to see if he’s won or lost. He is already filled to the brim with the mistakes he made in the past, and every little mishap eats away at him. Pitt’s portrayal shows Beane cringing every time a ball is missed, a bat swings silently and the crowd stays seated. But Beane can still see the romance through his hardened scars.
Anyone can appreciate Moneyball’s witty dialogue, complex characters and the hardships the characters go through. It transcends the sport of basebell without neglecting it, makes audiences care for the players without obscuring its commentary and draws them throughout the flick with unwavering intrigue. It’s an extraordinary tale told in tasteful cinematic fashion.