On the “Money”

by Nicholas Davies

The majority of sport films are adrenaline pumping, feel good affairs that are meant to allow the audience to leave their respective screenings floating on Cloud Nine and feeling pretty damn good about themselves. While there is some aspect of that in “Moneyball,” the rest of the film is not necessarily about the team in question, but rather the individuals that put the team together and the methods used to accomplish this feat.

That team in question is the 2002 Oakland A’s, whose general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is struggling to rebuild his roster following the departure of their major stars.

Following a meeting with a fellow general manager, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who has some radical ideas as to how evaluate players. Together, they assembled a team that defied expectations and set a record for the most consecutive wins in the American League with twenty wins.

The first thing to say about “Moneyball” is that it drags. A lot. It does not necessarily find its footing until midway through the film by which time some may have noticed just how comfortable seats in cinemas can be these days. This is a byproduct, naturally I suppose, of having so many moving pieces in Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s script. Some of the cogs were not simply going to fit, especially the initial meetings between Beane and Brand that labor along until Bennett Miller finally cuts to the next scene. Also, despite knowing why they were there, the moments featuring Beane’s home life, significantly his daughter, feel flat and tacked on in an attempt to ground the film.

Thankfully, the dialogue is not a victim of the somewhat slower moments and is crisp and often witty, as one would expect from a script from Sorkin. Pitt’s performance is wonderfully subversive with many of the great moments coming when he is alone in his truck, not saying a word.

The obvious breakout performance, however, is Hill whose Oscar nomination is well deserved. Like so many before him, he is not simply someone who the audience can laugh at, but someone who can actually act.

Hill and Pitt, despite the pacing issues, enjoy an easy chemistry that makes their initial interactions bearable and entrancing as the film plods along.

The actual moments of sporting action are certainly in the upper echelon when compared to other “sports” films and it really should come as no surprise considering that Wally Pfister, long time collaborator with Christopher Nolan, is the cinematographer, capturing all the lighting and movement that makes watching sports so damn thrilling in the first place- and this coming from someone who is not a fan of the sport of baseball.

Ultimately the question is: does “Moneyball” deserve its nomination for best picture? Despite its pacing issues, the film is certainly one of the better films released in 2011 and as such definitely deserves its nominations in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories if not Best Picture. The real question, though, is it going to win? I guess we shall soon see.

 

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