September is ending and we find ourselves in the midst of the Fall season once again. This means many things to many different people. For fans of cinema, it means that after a Spring and Summer of mediocre films to sort through, there will rarely be a weekend without a top notch release. And for fans of American's greatest pastime, it means the baseball playoffs are about to get underway. But if you're a fan of both, the end of September in 2011 means Moneyball, the latest baseball picture to garner some serious Oscar buzz.
Moneyball follows the real life story of Billy Beane (Pitt), the general manager for the Oakland Athletics. After a promising run at a World Series title in 2001, the financially capped Athletics were unable to bring back a trio of talented players, placing a large amount of pressure on the team's general manager. But when Billy Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), the pair decide to take Oakland's team philosophy in a different direction. Rather than trusting scouting reports, Beane and his sidekick use a statistical approach to assemble a cheap, yet productive baseball team for the 2002 season. An approach that some believe changed major league baseball forever.
Director Bennett Miller, who fared pretty well in 2005 with his award winning film Capote, attempts to recapture the glory with his second picture. Moneyball effectively grabs the audience at the start of the movie. Fresh off an Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay, Aaron Sorkin displays his talents once again. The witty dialogue is a welcoming touch, however the script loses its flare as the film's runtime begins to mount. Furthermore, the plot (or the lack of one) unravels at a yawning pace. And while the pace is tolerable, the declining dialogue adds to the misery at times.
Despite the drawn out feel of the movie, Moneyball still provides a real and authentic experience. Brad Pitt gives a believable, but by no means brilliant, performance. In fact, Jonah Hill may be the movie's guiding light. Hill feels natural as Peter Brand, the backbone of this philosophical transformation being carried out by the Athletics. Throughout the film, the acting is strong and effective enough to drag the audience to the finish line.
As a big fan of Baseball, and having some background knowledge of Sabermetrics (the statistical approach used by Beane and the organization), I found it was easy to follow the film. However, trying to imagine Moneyball through the eyes of ignorance, I believe some moviegoers unfamiliar with the sport will find it hard to appreciate the subject matter. Miller attempts to create another personal story to Beane's character outside the world of baseball, yet the film fails to address that area enough. As a result, when the final credits roll and we hear Beane's daughter sing a song for her father, I couldn't help but feel unmoved by the scene. There was a real story there that the writers and director could have done a better job of developing.
I had high expectations for Moneyball and ultimately they were never reached. I went into the theatre hoping for a home run, but it felt more like an RBI single. Similar to 2010's The Fighter, Moneyball is too uneventful and non-climactic for my taste. There are enough positives to the film to get you from start to finish, yet it isn't the easiest of rides. Many of you will see the film regardless of this review, but to get the most out of Moneyball as possible, heed my advice and curb your expectations.