For most guys there is one sport that we fall in love with, for me it was football. I remember watching football every Sunday and making a point to see my favorite player, Barry Sanders. I remember playing football in the school yard and keeping track of my stats. I remember being heartbroken when my parents wouldn’t let me play and trying to substitute the real thing by playing by myself and creating my own league and players. Football meant so much to me when I was younger but it never meant more to me than when I played in high school. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and join the team in my senior year in hopes of donning the pads and helmet I’ve always wanted to wear. I didn’t get on the field much and I had to work my ass off to be a sub par player but I played. I was under those lights, I was a part of the team, and when I had my first tackle, I was a part of the stat book. I was a part of the game, I didn’t just sit by my whole life watching and wondering what if. I was a part of football. No body can take that away from me but as I finished my last game and as I try recreating the thrill of the game by playing flag football, it still pains me. Those days are gone and I’m left on the sidelines once again watching the game I so desperately want to be a part of.
Moneyball is about Billy Beane and his love for the game. The love that kept him always connected to the game even if the feelings aren’t mutual at times. Yes Moneyball has its moments of glory and yes it is a feel good movie, but it is more about the internal struggle with something that can take so much. This is Brad Pitt’s movie and his performance is amongst the best of his career. He commands the screen and has finally stepped out of that mild lead performance role. We used to argue about if there was a bad Tom Cruise movie and I bet you could make that same argument about Brad Pitt now. He has stepped up and become one of the elite actors (not elite celebrities) of our time.
The real surprise though isn’t Brad Pitt but is Bennett Miller who makes the transition from smaller atmospheric films (Capote) to a mainstream sports movie. Although Capote is a better film, Miller brings some much-needed life into the sports genre while not ignoring what makes a great sports movie. I really thought this would end up being a very indie feeling movie but Miller knows his sports movies and knows the balancing act between pain and joy for the game. Not only that but he nails the comic relief which isn’t so obnoxious to be unrealistic and funny enough to lighten up the tone. There also isn’t much baseball in the movie. Miller doesn’t shy away from shooting the sport but keeps things in the front office. I love the fact that old real footage of the team is used and in a way we never really break away from Beane’s point of view. This is not only a move that is risky because it essentially almost takes actual playing time out of the movie, but it also stays true to the focus of the film. Sports movies rely too much on the sport these days and Miller here is more focused on the ones who are affected by it instead. Miller wouldn’t be the ideal choice for this film but neither was Nolan for Batman. I hope this trend of smaller and talented directors getting a chance at bigger movies opposed to lesser skilled, more mainstream filmmakers, continues.
The cast is strong here starting with Jonah Hill who is still Jonah hill but a much more toned down version of himself. I mean Brad Pitt kind of steals all the glory but surprisingly Hill holds the banter up pretty well. The baseball players are all played quite well by their respected actors (I would tell you their names but I’m too lazy to look them up on Wikipedia). They work well together as a group and each actor plays a small but important part of representing those who played on the field. Miller also casts his Capote sidekick, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is fantastic as the A’s coach. He may be the biggest pain in the ass in the film but he is also a great opposite to our lead, filled with the old ways and unwilling to change. Although the cast is good, they never become that rememberable (I think I just made up that word or spell-check is outdated). Moneyball’s cast is filled with enough talent and charisma to not be too incredible outdone by Pitt.
The main flaw or problem with Moneyball is that its climax doesn’t really feel like a climax. Yea winning 20 games in a row is impressive but who really cares about that expect for the record books. I guess you had to have something because number crunching would get old after the first hour but I wish something cleverer were done here. Maybe that is asking too much for this is based on real life but I feel like this movie was destined to have this flaw. There is nothing that really sets the 2002 A’s apart from anybody else except if you count the money game and as you know with most sports teams, the money game is only the beginning of the story not the beginning, middle, and end. In the end Moneyball just seems to blur together and when its uplifting finale comes it leaves the viewer with the feeling of “what’s next”. We know baseball and we know that games don’t end in September.
One of the main stories of Moneyball is about somebody who played ball and reached that point where they were told they could play no more. Billy Beane has heartbreak all over his face throughout the film. He no longer runs out on the field or puts a chew in before an at bat. Time takes away so many things that we love and unfortunately one of the first things it takes is the ability to play the games we love. Billy Beane is right, people never forget the ones who win that last game but time takes them away too. The winners are never forgotten but there influence usually diminishes over time. Beane changed the way baseball is played. He may never win that last game but his drive and love for the game changed it forever. We all get older and we all lose the things we love but hopefully those things we love never lose us.