Plot summary (from the studio): Moneyball is based on the true story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) – once a would-be baseball superstar who, stung by the failure to live up to expectations on the field, turned his fiercely competitive nature to management.
Heading into the 2002 season, Billy faces a dismal situation: his small-market Oakland A’s have lost their star players (again) to big market clubs (and their enormous salaries) and is left to rebuild his team and compete with a third of their payroll. Driven to win, Billy takes on the system by challenging the fundamental tenants of the game. He looks outside of baseball, to the dismissed theories of Bill James, and hires Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a brainy, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist. Together they take on conventional wisdom with a willingness to reexamine everything and armed with computer driven statistical analysis long ignored by the baseball establishment.
They go after players overlooked and dismissed by the rest of baseball for being too odd, too old, too injured or too much trouble, but who all have key skills that are universally undervalued. As Billy and Peter forge forward, their new methods and roster of misfits rile the old guard, the media, the fans, and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who refuses to cooperate. Ultimately this experiment will lead not only to a change in the way the game is played, but to an outcome that would leave Billy with a new understanding that transcends the game and delivers him to a new place.
Warning: Spoilers below!
- This was essentially an underdog story: The A’s, with their paltry $40 million payroll and clubhouse with no tv stands for flat screens or other frills, going up against the big, bad Yankees, as well as Billy Beane trying to prove that he belongs in baseball despite his failures as a player. I love underdog stories, so this aspect was great.
- I thought the filmmakers were very effective at splicing real footage of old games with shots from the movie. That made the baseball action infinitely more “authentic” and gave the viewer the feeling of being right back in that ’02 pennant chase.
- The whole Bill James approach to fielding a baseball team based on numbers was interesting to learn about. I have always heard that baseball is a statistician’s dream sport, and I guess this film bears that out.
- The 20-game win streak was amazing. I clearly remember that whole run, despite not being an A’s fan. I thought there should have been MUCH more focus on it. What an incredible turnaround for that club.
- I loved how Billy got his lineup on the field by trading away Art Howe’s starters, leaving the manager no choice in the matter. The trades might not have proved smart in the long run, but the GM got his way, didn’t he?
- I wasn’t particularly impressed by Brad Pitt or Jonah Hill’s acting. They were both nominated for Oscars, so I was expecting stunning performances. What did Hill even do, really? He just stood there with a serious or neutral look on his face the ENTIRE time!!! And Pitt’s character seemed just as one-dimensional. I don’t know what the real Billy Beane is like, but this movie version got on my last nerve with his spitting, gum-chewing, popcorn eating, etc.
- I could have done without all the flashbacks to Beane’s playing career. I know those were meant to give the character a backstory and some depth, but they just took me out of the main story and made me want to mash the “Skip” button on my DVD player.
- Lots of critics have said that you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this movie. I disagree with that. If you’re not interested in baseball, I don’t see how ANYTHING in this film could intrigue you. It’s all about baseball!
I was expecting great things from Moneyball because of all the award nominations and accolades the film received upon its initial release. Plus, it was written by Aaron Sorkin, who usually churns out nothing but gold. However, I was a bit disappointed with the results. The acting didn’t blow me away, nor did the film as a whole. The parts that dealt with selecting high-value players and with the real winning streak were fantastic, but everything else was pretty average. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.