Moneyball Made in: USA Language: English Director: Bennett Miller Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Robin Wright Year: 2011
Synopsis: Based on true events, the story is about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) and his unorthodox attempt at putting together a winning baseball team.
After losing star players, including Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, to much higher-paying teams (such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees), Beane finds his financially strapped team in big trouble.
While on an unsuccessful visit to Ohio to meet with his counterpart for the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill). Peter has just thwarted Beane's attempt at a player trade. Brand is an unassuming statistician who recently graduated from Yale with a degree in economics.
During the meeting, Billy senses that Peter's unique method of analyzing player statistics may hold the key to creating a successful team.
Peter's reasoning is that many star players, statistically speaking, are overvalued relative to their astronomical salaries. In short, buying high-priced stars is not the same as buying wins. Peter then compiles a program that pays attention to overlooked assets of a player, such as the ability to get on base and even his probability of being walked.
Using the computer generated results, Beane assembles a group of players that should theoretically outplay bigger name opponents...for a fraction of the price.
This strategy, of course, is met with fierce resistance not only from scouts, but from team manager Art Howe (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman). Billy Beane is rejecting over a century of baseball tradition, and most of the sports commentators think he's lost his mind.
Is this moneyball strategy just a wild pipe dream, or will Beane end up changing the competitive structure of America's national pastime for good?
The Good:Moneyball (based on the book by Michael Lewis) is a very different approach to making a baseball movie. Compelling, emotional, and filled with humor, the film is not only a commentary on baseball, but on the way we often view our own lives.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill do a great job in their respective roles, and they bring to light a lot of fascinating aspects of baseball that most fans never get to see. Moneyball is in many ways a "root-for-the-underdog" movie, but does a great job exploring that familiar theme.
The supporting cast is solid, and the script (written by Steven Saillian and Aaron Sorkin) is very well-written.
The Bad: I'm always a bit wary when I see the words "based on true events" flash up on the screen. I'm not quite sure how much of Moneyball actually happened and how much was embellished for audiences, as the book was necessarily truncated to fit the two-hour running time.
The film also leaves out some other events, such as the fact that the Oakland A's had a pretty decent roster of pitchers during the time when the film takes place (a friend with much more knowledge of baseball pointed that out to me). So it appears the Oakland A's weren't quite as bad as director Bennett Miller portrayed them to be.
Also, it would have been more helpful if there was more detail given about Peter Brand's methodology. In the context of sports, I'm sure the intended audience would have been fine with a lesson in statistics and math.
Who would like this movie: Moneyball is obviously for baseball fans, but you need only a rudimentary knowledge of the game and its management structure to understand what's going on. I don't follow baseball that much but never felt lost.
The underdog theme is very well structured, and its overall message of encouraging us to see things differently and try new ways of solving problems, despite criticism from establishment thinkers, will be inspirational to many.
Overall, this is the type of entertaining and meaningful film that I'd like to see more of.