MONEYBALL

Moneyball
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MONEYBALL



Written by Jack Sharp
Photos and illustrations by Sony Pictures
28 Monday 28th November 2011

In their 2002 season, Oakland Athletics (or “the Oakland A's”) won an unprecedented twenty consecutive games, setting the American League record. Despite this, the team began the season with eleven losses.

Granted, this probably sounds boring to non-baseball fans. I’m not much of a sport fan, and therefore struggle to get emotionally involved in films that try to depict what’s essentially just a game as something more profound. Moneyball, however, directed by Bennett Miller (Capote) is different to most sport based films. Very few scenes take place on the field and the ones that do aren’t what you’d expect. They simply illustrate what’s happening in the game, establishing baseball as nothing more than a sport – the players, the scouts and the managers are just doing their jobs; only the fans can truly enjoy the game. At least that’s how Billy Beane claims to feel.

The film opens with Beane struggling to rebuild his team, having recently lost three of the A’s' best players to teams offering much larger salaries. During a visit to the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an awkward young Yale economics graduate who has devised an unorthodox method of assessing players' value. Upon returning back to Oakland, Beane calls Brand and hires him to work for the A’s.

Brand’s method uses statistics to pick excellent players who aren’t worth as much as they should be. For example, the A’s hire players who have had great careers, but are now reaching retirement or have been injured.

Beane is immediately criticised for employing Brand’s ideas, even by team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), but decides to stick with it, even after several crippling losses. As the team continues to lose, Beane’s relationship with the other managers starts to deteriorate and he secretly fears that he might become unemployable as a manager.

Having turned down college to become a baseball player at a young age, Beane worries about his lack of prospects. He has his regrets, not just about his career, but also his failed marriage. He has a daughter, Casey (Kerris Dorsey), a cute, shy girl with a quiet passion for singing and playing guitar that he loves but doesn’t get to see as often as he’d like to, partly because of his job.

Pitt plays Beane as a lonely, confronted man with a terrible fear of losing, even when Brand’s methods start to pay off for the A’s. He’s so emotionally invested in his team's success that he even refuses to watch them play at the stadium. He often drives around by himself during matches, only later finding out whether the A’s have won or lost. But despite Beane’s insecurities, he’s a likeable, strong lead -- a character that you can’t help but root for.

Jonah Hill’s performance is just as engaging. An intelligent young nerd, with an impressive knowledge of the game, Brand’s interest in the sport seems purely statistical. Hill is an underrated dramatic actor, and here he does a great job playing a likable, socially uncomfortable baseball buff.

Moneyball is really a film about fairness; it’s about an underdog championing in a sport that’s ruled by money. Much like with football, money dictates how good a team is. But Moneyball is the story of the exception, a team that made the most of their limited payroll and made a difference to the sport.

Even moviegoers who have little interest in sport should be able to appreciate Moneyball. It’s a surprisingly strong sport film in a similar vein to the classic 80s basketball film Hoosiers; it’s less about the sport and more about the characters, but without the emotional gushing of some Hollywood sports movies.

The interplay between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill is great fun to watch and the story is an interesting one that happens to be masterfully told. I left the cinema wanting to know more about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, which is pretty much the most any film based on real life events can hope for.

Moneyball is out now. To find out more about the film visit moneyball-movie.com.

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