Rating: 3 of 5
Moneyball is not your typical sports-inspirational movie. And I guess that’s to be expected from Aaron Sorkin. Though, I can’t remember if Sorkin wrote the draft that Sony abandoned or if he came in and rewrote it after Sony abandoned a different draft. Either way, the movie has a flavor of Sorkin’s particular wit and style, but doesn’t seem infused with it the way The Social Network was. But that could also be the directing.
ETA: Sony abandoned a Soderbergh version and brought on Sorkin.
There’s two other factors to draw audiences into Moneyball: baseball and Brad Pitt. Since it’s not a sports-inspirational movie, you kind of have to really like baseball to enjoy that aspect of the movie. I don’t, so there were a couple of places where I was completely lost as to what was happening which isn’t the end of the world (there were a lot of things I just glossed over in Wall Street 2 also) but here I was at such a loss I didn’t understand the dynamics that were happening between the characters – and I should have been able to understand that.
And Brad Pitt is always an interesting actor to watch even though this is a rather bland character for him to portray. It’s a good performance but it seems like a waste to put someone of Pitt’s charisma in such a perpetually downtrodden character.
The plot was not-surprisingly slow. I don’t mind a slow plot if I like spending time with the characters, but the characters weren’t quite interesting enough to compensate for how slow the plot was. If it were an equation I’d say the characters were 80% interesting enough to offset the plot which is decent but not quite enough.
It didn’t end anywhere that I thought it was going to. Which sort of exacerbated the slowness because after a certain point I kept wondering, “Is this the end?” no. “Is this the end?” no. And then suddenly it was the end. I wasn’t thrown so much by it ending kind of abruptly it ended as how it ended. When it’s based on a true story, you kind of can’t change how it ends. But you can choose what piece of the story you tell. I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t just tell the piece of the story I would have expected.
But then there were two moments that were great and thoroughly Sorkin and kind of made the movie. (Pete’s first time in the conference room and the brilliant metaphor. That metaphor was genius.) There were also a couple of lines that were funny and infused energy into the moment, but most of those lines were in the preview.
I wasn’t that impressed with the directing. The slow pace wouldn’t have been so bad if there weren’t so many shots of Brad Pitt sitting and thinking, or brooding, or considering. I get that it’s his film, but that doesn’t move the story along at all.
Especially when we needed it to. There was one major transition in the film that I didn’t understand at all. I kept thinking, “why are they doing this now when they should have been doing it all along?” Because there was no catalyst. I understood it when I thought about it a little more, but I needed a moment, a line, a scene, something that propels Billy Beane from here to there and close ups of him driving his truck around in circles didn’t do it for me.
Also, there were a lot of close ups. I get that Brad Pitt’s a good actor, but give the story a little room.
Even though there’s a whole baseball team, this is pretty much a two man show. Peter Brand was almost a more interesting character than Billy Beane, because it was fascinating to see him learn from Billy, for him to be shaped and taught and watch him change. Brad Pitt did a great job of pulling the film together and keeping it moving and it’s a great display of his ability to carry a movie despite weaker elements and a ragged, steady character. He also does a great job capturing Billy’s sense of loss and determination. Jonah Hill virtually disappears into the role and holds his own well.
The production is decent. Everything is kind of dreary, but when you’re going for something real everything tends to lose it’s Hollywood gloss. It’s authentic, but not as much fun to watch.
I do have to give it credit, though because wrangling with its strengths and weaknesses leaves a lot to think about and complicated movies are always a little bit interesting.