I hate watching the sport of baseball, but there are a lot of great baseball movies. The Natural, Major League, Field of Dreams, Sugar, and now I can add Moneyball to the list. Although sticking Moneyball in the baseball genre might be like calling Schindler’s List a comedy because there were two jokes in it.
Part of Moneyball’s appeal, in fact, might be that it has the least amount of baseball of any baseball movie I’d ever seen. Moneyball is more of the idea genre. Influenced by The Social Network (which was adapted by the same screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin), Moneyball tries to make computers and number crunching exciting and largely succeeds.
Moneyball tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, figuring out a way to compete against Major League baseball teams with larger payrolls. Since he can’t afford big name players, he must be creative and hires an assistant with a new set of statistics that decipher a player’s true value to the team.
Moneyball will have Jean-Luc Godard cursing mad as it disproves his theory that every movie needs a girl and a gun. There are no guns in this movie (unless you count the players steroid fueled biceps) and only Billy Beane’s young daughter represents the feminine gender, but what it has in spades is witty peripheral dialogue. Billy Beane’s interactions with his cronies keeps the movie humming along. I’m split on the casting of Brad Pitt as Billy Beane. His presence keeps the movie from seeming documentarian. He refuses to lose himself in the role, as his costars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill do. Pitt’s contract also demands that there are a multitude of scenes where you must watch him work out, but he’s charismatic as ever so that you’re rooting hard for him to win.
The movie drags toward the end as it becomes a montage of baseball highlights and tries to instill in us the historical significance of Billy Beane. Beane has supposedly begun a statistical revolution in the way baseball teams now stock their rosters, but that’s not what makes the movie worth seeing. It gets my recommendation because there’s something cathartic in watching a guy tell everyone else he’s right, they’re wrong, and then back up those words.