From the author behind The Blind Side and the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Social Network and Schindler’s List, how can Moneyball’s script be so darn boring?? Okay, I promise not to be this fussy the entire time, but I needed to get that off my chest. To their credit, nobody read Michael Lewis’ 2003 exposé and anticipated a full-length film. The Blind Side was just begging for Hollywood to take it in, but Moneyball is that book you only read for econ class or to cite in your thesis. It’s not exactly the stuff movies are made of. But director Bennett Miller defies expectations.
Based on the miraculous 2002 season the Oakland Athletics completed despite their dreadful payroll, Moneyball follows general manager Billy Beane (played with ruthless arrogance by Brad Pitt) and his assistant Peter Brand (an alias of Beane’s actual assistant, played by Jonah Hill) as they shove logic back into the faces of their colleagues and follow the stats. Brand is the Dali Lama of baseball analysis, a Buddha-figure that dispenses predictions without the audience ever seeing him work. Beane defies Coach Art Howe (a brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, from director Bennett Miller’s Capote) and pays pennies on the dollar for players that have been dropped like lepers by half the teams in the league. Despite the odds, Oakland pulls off one of the greatest win streaks in decades.
Beane proves a loose-fitting role for Pitt, a mere impersonation that doesn’t showcase any genuine emotion or impactful drama. Best Actor nominations are uncalled for. Jonah Hill performs in his penultimate plump role (he lost it all after The Sitter) as the analytical, genius Yale graduate. Fat is funny, so hopefully, now he can survive. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is excellent, and he has the raw emotion you can expect from a losing coach. But it’s Kerris Dorsey, as Beane’s daughter Casey, that provides the light-hearted diversion to the blah story of statistics provided at the forefront.
The film’s script was dull, slow, and made me drowsy. Scenes that should take 5 minutes drag out to 10, and rough patches are rampant. While it expertly intertwines two terrific stories, the undetectable, hurried editing flies from scene to scene with barely any transition at all. Perhaps it suffered because it tried too hard to directly quote the book, which other movies have done with bland results.
A soft-core brand of baseball movie, Moneyball doesn’t have that one climactic scene that Pride of the Yankees and Angels in the Outfield relied on, scenes that America has come to expect in sports movies. It’s an interesting display of the workings and dealings of a Major League general manager, a look that might surprise you. With a wonderfully quiet ending, Moneyball leaves you wondering if it has ended at all. Margin Call focused on a completely different topic, but has similarly soft, quiet final scenes. Even without a large memorable ending, Moneyball has to be the greatest baseball movie since Fever Pitch or beyond. Would it be corny to call it a home run? Well, at least it’s not foul.