Anthony's Film Review

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball provides an interesting glimpse into a shakeup in professional baseball...

The movie Moneyball, based on the book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis, could be considered a sports film given its subject of professional baseball. But it's not a sports film in the traditional sense, centering on the players and the in-game action. If it were up to me, I would put this movie into a new subcategory, the sports business drama, because that's what it is: a story about success in the management of a sports team rather than success of the team itself. For me, this is a good thing. I don't want a sports movie that ends in victory in a predictable way. I want a sports movie that dares to be a little different from what's been done before.

Of course, even this sports movie has to follow one convention of the genre: focus on an underdog team. Here, the underdog team is the Oakland Athletics, a.k.a. the Oakland A's. As shown in historical footage at the beginning of the movie, the A's suffer a heartbreaking loss in a playoff game against the New York Yankees in October 2001. It certainly sets the stage for Moneyball, not just by providing a launching point for the plot but also by illustrating a sad truth about Major League Baseball (and other pro sports leagues for that matter): not all teams are created equal. Here, the Yankees have a budget of over $100 million, while the A's only have about $39 million to work with.

Billy Beane, the A's general manager, played by Brad Pitt, realizes that something has to change. He finds the answer when he meets sports analyst Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill, during a visit to the headquarters of the Cleveland Indians. Brand explains to Beane that the most important thing for a team is to achieve wins, and to do that, the players must be able to make base runs. Reviewing players' performance stastistics can pick out those who are likely to achieve runs and win games. (According to various sources, this practice of baseball player drafting by statistical analysis is called sabermetrics, named after the Society for American Baseball Research. The term "moneyball," though not widely used, appears to mean the same thing.)

Right away, Beane hires Brand as the assistant GM for the Oakland A's. However, both men are up against old-time scouts who believe that their observations of player proficiency in skills such as hitting and throwing should not be questioned. Beane, having some disappointing moments in his previous career in professional baseball despite his scout's optimism, sticks to his guns and forms an Oakland A's team for the 2002 season that includes various players who have been overlooked but might have risky handicaps for the team. Unfortunately, things go wrong as the Oakland A's deliver a disappointing starting performance in the season, resulting in Beane quickly being criticized for his faulty approach to team formation.

This movie is entertaining and engaging simply for its dialogue. Brad Pitt plays a guy who is often optimistic and confident in his managerial decisions, but can sometimes be tough and lose his cool at critical moments. Jonah Hill, despite portraying an obedient soft-spoken number cruncher, has a memorable screen presence. The actors playing the rest of the Oakland A's management staff, including Philip Seymour Hoffman as A's manager Art Howe, do a fine job in providing the conflict for the story. Even the actors who play specific real-life players of the 2002 Oakland A's are good here, especially as several had previous experience in Major League Baseball.

Perhaps the best thing about Moneyball is the subtle question it presents towards the end. How do you define success in Major League Baseball? Is it the momentary glory of one team winning the World Series, or is it one individual's impact on the league that benefits all teams in the years to come? Which is more important for a team: having the most amount of money, or using the money in the most effective way possible? If Moneyball teaches us one thing, it's that any team has the chance to come far ahead from way behind, if one is willing to reject convention and explore new methods. All in all, the movie is inspiring for baseball fans, whether or not they're fans of the Oakland A's. Then again, with a movie like this, the team just might find itself with a few new devoted followers.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Moneyball, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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