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Oakland A's GM Billy Beane is handicapped with the lowest salary constraint in baseball. If he ever wants to win the World Series, Billy must find a competitive advantage. Billy is about to turn baseball on its ear when he uses statistical data to analyze and place value on the players he picks for the team. Written by
Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)
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Well, when purchasing my ticket I expected to see a good movie about baseball. I was rewarded with just that. Overall I thought the film excellent, both as a finely crafted film and as a representative of baseball. To demonstrate that I had no preconceived prejudices, I can say that I'm not really a fan of professional sports any longer. My fond memories of baseball are mostly from playing the game when I was a kid. We lived in a neighborhood with a lot of boys, all of whom were involved in sports and we played baseball a lot. But, that was the 1950's and times have changed. No one now days can hold a candle to The Mick.
The film centers around the Oakland A's in the early 2000's and it's controversial General Manager, Billy Beane, skillfully played by Brad Pitt. The premise is the real story of how, with an extremely small budget for a professional sports team, he managed to win a surprising number of games, including setting an all-time major league record of 20 consecutive wins. The method used by Beane was not of his invention, having already been around in theory and known as "sabermetrics". The crafting of the team into that form is credited to have been begun by Beane's predecessor, Sandy Alderson. Beane himself was thrust to the forefront as the focus of a successful 2003 best-selling book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game"; which ultimately led to this film.
The film was very well done, really succeeding in sucking in the audience to it's ebb and flow. The audience I was in clearly enjoyed the film, there was a lot of laughter in the right places and applause at the end, which is rare enough. The setting had the look and feel of realism and the same with regard to the actors portraying the players. There was a fairly long list of good character actors peppered throughout the film, all of whom added considerably to the film's realism.
But the lion's share of the film, and the credit for it's quality, goes primarily to it's major stars, Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Team Manger Art Howe, and Jonah Hill, as the fictional character Peter Brand who is said to have been based on Paul DePodesta who was Beane's assistant during the period covered by the film. Hoffman is great as usual but played his character a bit understated. Jonah Hill nearly ran off with the attention altogether while he was on screen. But Pitt clearly controlled the central attention and did so with ease and excellence. He managed to make the character look smart, fair and quite human.
Pitt's humanity was helped by the presence of tidbits of his family life, mainly focused on his relationship with his 12 year old daughter, well represented on screen by the young Kerris Dorsey as Casey Beane. The interplay between them added a lot of humanity to the film that would have otherwise been lacking. There was a small part played by Robin Wright as Beane's ex-wife Sharon. It was the closest anything in the film came to a romantic involvement.
Many of the character actors made important contributions, such as Stephen Bishop as David Justice, Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg and Brent Jennings as Ron Washington. There was even a cameo by Joe Satriani playing his guitar as superbly as usual.
Leaving the theater I thought that one would have to have at least a working knowledge of the game of baseball to get the most out of the film. I wondered how it would play to someone without that knowledge and I think a lot would be lost, but it would still be enjoyable for it's basic story of struggling to overcome long odds to achieve something good and the exploration of the people and personalities involved. That's a pretty good accomplishment for any film to make and this one does it with a lot of fun and class.
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