It’s no secret that I could care less about sports of any kind. The only sporting event I watch is the Super Bowl, though I fast-forward the game to watch the commercials. With that said, I happen to love sports movies. I know that might seem peculiar, but it’s not if you really think about it. Most sports movies distill the very essence of drama to a simple concept of win vs. lose. It’s the same reason I like war movies.
The best sports movies aren’t even about sports themselves. They are metaphors for human dramas that use sports as a convenient backdrop to tell their story. The heartbreaking BRIAN’S SONG (1971) is about friendship and male bonding, ROCKY (1976) is about a man who just wanted to “go the distance” and mean something to himself and others. The exceptional WARRIOR (2011) is about a fractured family and more specifically sibling rivalry.
MONEYBALL is one of those great sports film that’s really not a sports film. At its core, it’s about challenging the system. Based on the true story of how Oakland A’s general Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) decided to recruit recent Ivy League graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to assemble a baseball team based on statistical analysis as opposed to the tried and (not so) true way of using scouts to find the best of the best. This was a slap in the face to conventional wisdom, but Beane understood that they were in a slump of diminishing returns and something needed to be done. The outcome of these desperate actions is quite astonishing.
MONEYBALL is a slow build and much like a baseball game, takes its time. I knew nothing of the actual events, nor the resolution of Beane and Brand’s grand experiment, so the movie had an extra level of suspense and tension that those in the know might not have experienced. But even knowing the outcome wouldn’t malign the film at all, because it’s the sheer audacity of their gumption that makes the movie shine.
Pitt is fantastic as always. Of course the true revelation of the film is Jonah Hill who was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar for his role. Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a terrific understated performance as the Oakland A’s put upon Coach Art Howe, who had to deal directly with what he perceived was an absurd situation, not fully realizing that he was key to its success or failure.
If you like good drama with fine performances, than MONEYBALL is a homerun…or at least a triple with all bases loaded.