Thursday, 6 October 2011

Moneyball Review

I need to preface this review by disclosing that I am a baseball fan and an Oakland A's fan.  So any movie that lets me relive the winning ways of my team from ten years ago is one that I am going to enjoy on some level.

That being said, this is a great movie.  Any time you can take a film that is almost 2.5 hours long and not make me bored at any time is a good thing.  With something that long, there are bound to be lags and, while the movie slows a bit during the non-baseball Billy Beane moments, I found I didn't lose focus and those moments were short.  If you have read the book, you'd find that like another Michael Lewis sports movie (The Blind Side) they took a book that talks about technical sports stuff and turned it into a human story without losing too much of the sports jargon, etc.  I haven't read the Blind Side but a friend told me it was very sports skewed.  I have seen the movie and it is more a story about human nature.  Moneyball keeps even more of the sports angle while still letting you see Beane's transformation as a person (I'd say it's very true to the book without just being a statistics course - something the book almost becomes).  It is done so subtly that I didn't really even notice until my brother pointed it out after the film.  So you really have to tip your hat to Brad Pitt there.  He goes from a bit over-cocky to humility through subtle gestures and tone of voice very well over the course of the film.  And there's a lot of subtlety in the film that lets the viewer figure things out on their own.  They don't hammer into your face who each person is or what's going on.  They let the story tell itself.  A baseball fan will have the light go on quicker and enjoy it and a non-baseball fan will just say to him/herself, "oh, that must be the boss at the Cleveland Indians.

The way this film was made is terrific with a couple of exceptions that I will address later.  First, you can feel the dramatic emotion right from the start.  It starts with one of the most entertaining and dramatic baseball playoff series ever (New York vs Oakland in 2001 shortly after 9/11) and never lets go.  Throughout the movie they use music, brief montages and terrific dialogue (especially the dynamic between Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt - fantastic) to keep you hooked and almost mesmerized for the whole time.  They even manage to make the worst park in all of baseball (the Oakland Coliseum) seem like a cathedral for the sport.  (I don't recall if they were selling out during the big winning streak in 2002 but it was nice to see the Coliseum appear to be full for baseball.)

The authenticity was near flawless too.  Overall, this movie is exceptionally cast.  When you are making a film like this with so many true characters, you have to balance the acting with looks and believability.  For the most part, this is done well.  All of the old guard scouts and coaches seem like old cranks that will balk at Beane's new philosophy.  While I know most of the actors don't look at all like the players they were portraying (Chad Bradford, David Justice, Ron Washington, etc.), it was never a distraction.  In fact, the actors must have done their research well because they were able to get Bradford's submarine delivery and Justice's swing down well.  The best though was Scott Hatteberg.  Not only did he get the batting stance down, he actually looked like Scott Hatteberg.  The other top casting choice was Jonah Hill.  He is great as a nerdy, out of his element, statistician.  The only one I didn't like was Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe.  He's too big for the role and the fact that it was him overpowered what should have been a much more minor role.

The only things I didn't like were the little continuity things.  First, the typo on the Game Time posters in the clubhouse bugged me.  But maybe they are actually accurate for what is up there in real life.  Having never been in the A's clubhouse, I don't know.  The other is that, when listening to the game on the radio at the beginning, Pitt should not have been hearing Thom Brennemann's voice.  Brennemann was the TV guy and having his commentary for the TV footage was great.  But, when they cut to a radio shot, they should have switched to the radio announcer commentary.  While it keeps consistency for the viewer, it takes authenticity away.  For that one (And a couple others I won't mention), I would have erred on the side of authenticity.

See it.  A baseball fan should see it now during the playoffs.  A non-baseball fan can wait as there's nothing the theatre can really add to it.  But definitely see it before Oscar season because it should get a Best Picture nomination.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree on one aspect. I believe everyone should see it in the theater if possible. I think this was an excellent example of a movie that is visually beautiful, and enhanced by the big screen, without having any reliance on effects.

    The big screen should be for more than just giant robot explosions.