Growing up in St. Louis, baseball has always been an important part of my life. I made myself sick on stadium food as a child, I was way too proud of myself when my neighbor came over to compliment the strength of my pitch into my father’s glove, currently strangers and I are bonded in the hopes of the Cards furthering themselves in the Wild Card race, as well as a mutual hatred for the Boston Red Sox. Point is, this is America, and we love baseball. Sometimes maybe too much.
Moneyball follows Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s during a rough patch for the team. As he describes it, after a season in which they made it to the playoffs the team is being gutted by organizations that have the money to entice star players from smaller teams (*cough* Yankees *cough*). With no hope of buying a big name to replace those lost, Beane brings on Peter Brand in the hopes of revolutionizing the way in which teams are built, looking more at stats (AKA mostly the percentage a player gets on base) instead of buying the name, getting overlooked players at a fraction of the cost.
Let’s face it, if you’re not a Yankees fan then you will probably take issue with the way in which baseball players are spoiled by their “worth” in dollar form (side-note: my boyfriend brings up a good point in contrasting this with the salary cap of the NHL, and that maybe baseball would be better if it switched to this method of distributing players). I know that Pujols has caused quite a bad taste in many a fan’s mouth when he refused to sign a contract with the city that has him in a heroic pose up on a pedestal because they did not offer enough money prior to this season (on top of the amount he already gets per year, which I could probably live off of for the rest of my life). Point is, though I cannot tell you how closely this film that claims to be “based on a true story” is to the characters’ lives and what happened to the A’s that season, I can say that it is nothing but the truth when it comes to the game itself.
Though it is a movie about baseball, it really isn’t a movie about baseball. What I mean by this is that there isn’t actually that much gameplay, apart from a spell in the middle of the movie when the A’s go on a winning streak. These moments are glorified in a way that separates them from the hard truth of what losing feels like, represented by grainy, old footage, by creating this dream like atmosphere. Take my favorite scene in the whole film: Christ Pratt (playing Scott Hatteberg) walks up to the plate with a world of pressure on his shoulders, but in this moment the crowd disappears to black, the camera takes a “hero view” angle sitting behind him low to the ground, and not a camera flash in the world can distract him from this moment that will replay in his mind for the rest of his life. He connects with the ball in a deafening crack, but other than this connection he is alone in the moment; no crowd noise, just him and the game he loves.
Though I would have loved to have more gameplay in the movie, this is not your children’s zero-to-hero film in the Little Giants or Angels in the Outfield sort of way. In all honesty, it isn’t even about the team or what they did that year. Simply put, it is about the love of the game. Brad Pitt plays the tobacco chewing manager, and though I definitely think that some footage could have been taken out to cut the runtime down a little (as long as they are not scenes with Jonah Hill, who without-a-doubt steals the film) I appreciate the flashbacks to his life as a player that furthers our understanding of what he was trying to do with this team. It’s not a movie about the wins, and in the end where the team ends up in the standings doesn’t matter; what matters is that in this love poem to the game one should remember why they starting playing it in the first place. And this is what the focus on Beane represents.
Though it helps being a fan of the sport (I was seriously chanting “come on, come on!” over and over during the scene I mentioned above), it is not a requirement to understanding the message from the movie. It is about doing something you love and remembering this simple fact, and we can all strive for that.
Final Grade: B/B+ Follow @BewareOfTrees