Director: Bennett Miller
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)
A middle-aged Brad Pitt looking away from a baseball diamond. I took one look at the movie poster and said to myself: not interested. Like the rest of the audiences in Asia (outside Japan), where America’s favorite pastime is no one’s cup of tea, I was turned off by the very subject matter of the film. But I was on an 11-hour flight from Hong Kong to Europe and two hours in I had already run out of movies to watch. And so I reluctantly put my headset back on and expected to be bored.
|Moneyball by Bennett Miller|
But I was nothing but bored. Moneyball is a baseball movie except it is not a baseball movie. Based on a true story, the film takes the audience through the ups and downs of the Oakland As, a perennial underdog in major league baseball. Bennett Miller, whose critically acclaimed biopic Capote won him an Oscar nomination in 2005, strikes the perfect balance between telling a baseball story – with all its dizzying jargon and mind-numbing statistics – and a human story.
The delicate balance between baseball and humanity is not unlike the one facing Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland As portrayed by Brad Pitt. Although Mr. Angelina himself strikes me as a bit young playing a gritty major league manager, he pulls it off with both range and depth. In all likelihood, Brad will be nominated for an Oscar this year and will lose, taking a cue from the Academy that he will eventually win one if he keeps working on his craft. That’s the same party line they have been telling other aging idols like Johnny Debb and Mark Wahlberg. One day, dear, but now is not the time.
The true stars of the movie are in the supporting cast, in particular, Jonah Hill who plays the Yale-educated boy wonder and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the team’s obstinate team coach. Their performances are as effortless as they are heartfelt and persuasive. It goes to show that movie-making is every bit a team sport as baseball itself.
|Jonah Hill clinched an Oscar nomination for his role|
Moneyball is touching without being melodramatic, inspirational without being corny. It forces us to examine America’s star worshipping culture and the cruel reality of professional sports. But beneath the film's cynicism lies a positive message: if at first you don't succeed, try again. And if you truly believe what you do is right, you don't owe anyone any explanation. Amen to that.