I’m a bit of a baseball guy. I go to the ballpark and watch my beloved Detroit Tigers play whenever I can. I even have tickets to tonights game. I read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball a few weeks ago and enjoyed it tremendously. What’s there not to love? An underdog ball team (the Oakland A’s) with no budget trying to take on the Yankes with a budget nearly 4x their own. Billy Beane is a bit of a dick, but a likable one. And the secret weapon is… Math! A hundred years of tradition leading to on old boys network of baseball men valuing things like the RBI over more meaningful statistics like On Base Percentage. One of the stars of the book is an economist. It’s awesome.
Well Moneyball the book is a hard one to consider making the transition to the big screen. The book dedicates a tons of pages of itself to a baseball draft (the movie ignores that). But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a movie with a ton of ideas. Ideas that would be awfully hard to visualize on screen. Thankfully the movie mostly pulls it off… and while it has flaws, overall this is a really enjoyable movie, thanks no doubt to Aaron Sorkin, and Brad Pitt.
The dialog is sparkling, but it’s clear that Sorkin isn’t the sole writer here. Unlike The Social Network (or West Wing or Sports Night) which are so overloaded with Sorkin’s particular brand of awesome, this one uses it a lot more sparingly, relying instead on the star: Brad Pitt is likable and charismatic: every bit the super star. He’s perfectly cast as the Handsome Billy Beane, the 5 Tool washup loved by scouts, but who never lived up to their expectations. The interaction between Pitt and Jonah Hill is just awesome. The stunned nerd intimidated by the raw power of the larger than life general manager works out well. But Jonah steals the scene over and over again with understated lines that just work.
The movie isn’t flawless: the relationship between Billy Beane and his daughter is very sweet, but it feels a bit created to me. And some editing could have tightened things up a bit. I’m always glad when a film gives the viewer some room to breath, but the last 30 minutes of the movie seem like it could be a bit tighter… the movie clocks in over 2 hours. I feel like a half dozen more jokes and dropping a few minutes of actors staring off into space and thinking might have done well.
But even if you’re not into Baseball, I think there’s a lot to love here. But if you’re a nerd who likes Aaron Sorkin, Baseball, or Statistics triumphing over old men, then get in line and buy your ticket.