MONEYBALL - Where Sports Meets Economics
MONEYBALL (sports drama)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Kathryn Morris, Tammy Blanchard, Erin Pickett, Sergio Garcia and Stephen Bishop
Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, based on a story by Stan Chervin and the book by Michael Lewis.
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is a baseball player-turned-General Manager of the Oakland Athletics (the A's) team in the 2000s. However, the Oakland A's keep losing their best players to bigger and higher-paying clubs, leaving Billy the task of rebuilding the team on a tiny budget. When Billy meets economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Peter convinces him that there's a way to field a successful team of lower-paid and cast-off players, based purely on how often they get on base. This is based on an economics practice called sabremetrics.
Snubbed by both baseball experts and his own team of professional scouts, Billy makes Peter his assistant manager and goes ahead with the plan. At first, it seems like a disaster and the team lose almost all their first few games. However, after out-manoeuvring his unco-operative coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Billy finally gets the team on a winning streak.
HITS & MISSES: Actually one need not know much about baseball to follow what is going on on the screen. The title refers to the way players are being traded like cattle by their managers, and we root for Pitt's Billy not only because the character is well developed (with touching scenes of his ex-wife played by Robin Wright and Kerris Dorsey as his pre-teen daughter) but also because deep inside Billy is a guy who dislikes firing and selling his players.
Pitt is superb as the middle-aged Billy who is weary of the routine hiring and firing and is excited about trying out something new and radical. His performance is aided by Reed Thompson, who portrays the younger Billy in the flashback scenes. Hill supports well and together, they have good chemistry. What I like most about Moneyball is that it avoids the usual sports film sentimentality and cliches. For this intelligent script, credit goes to Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (who wrote for Social Network).
THE LOWDOWN: An engaging film for any sports fan.