Saturday, October 29, 2011

3 short paragraphs: Moneyball


2011, Bennett Miller -- theatre

I'm not a "sports" guy. I've become a bit of a hockey and tennis fan since meeting my wife, but by and large I don't care much about professional sports (I've always been more of an "and Leisure" kind of guy). I can appreciate the games and the exceptional plays from the highlight reel but I don't spend too much time thinking about it. I'm sure some people say the same about movies, and tv, and comics, and other things I do spend a lot of time thinking about. Of the professional sports, I would have to say that baseball is my least favourite to watch (next to soccer). It's just boring. The last baseball game I attended, I lasted four innings before I ran out of jokes and puns on the players names and lost complete interest in the men standing out on the field. Emphasis on standing. There's a lot of standing in baseball.

Moneyball is a baseball movie, and not just baseball, but statistics too, which is the main reason why I was so hesitant to see it. With Brad Pitt in the cast I knew there must be something to it (he hasn't really made a dumb film choice since the Troy, and he's generally a bankable star for both the mainstream an indie crowds) but it certainly wasn't a priority watch. What was finally the deciding factor was the Aaron Sorkin's participation as on the screenplay. Certainly the guy who made a Facebook movie not only worth watching, but one of the best films of 2010 could make a baseball and math flick palatable.

And he does. Though Capote's Bennett Miller provides solid direction and editing as the foundation, the script shines with Sorkin's wit, and well drawn characters. Sure, they're based on real people, and it's all based on a true story, but it takes a bit of mythologizing to turn it from a niche story into something any film goer can care about. Both Pitt and Jonah Hill put in excellent turns, with Pitt's Billy Beane still living in the shadows of his failed pro-ball career, ready to try anything to make a difference. As a duo they act as mentors to one another, as Hill's Peter Brand guides Pitt through his stats-based drafting method and conversely Pitt teaches Hill or two about managing a team and dealing with players. The real gift of the film is in Beane's daughter, played by 12-year-old Kerris Dorsey, who provides Pitt real stakes for succeeding, as well as an enviable father-daughter relationship. It's a charming movie, that generates genuine suspense and excitement, and presents a season of baseball in about 2 hours, which is about right.