Monday, September 26, 2011

Man on Film: Moneyball

Adapting Moneyball into a film was a loaded proposition. Amongst certain circles, this book was (and to an extent still is) a bit controversial. As someone who stands somewhere vaguely nearby these circles, this was bound to be a somewhat divisive film. It was divisive for me.

On a fundamental level, the film fails to drive home the misunderstood central point of the book. The movie sort of touches on it, but what the book was really about the A's success as a result of exploiting market inefficiencies. Jonah Hill's Peter Brand character (the Paul DePodesta stand-in) hints at the larger issue when he is talking with Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) in their conversation in the parking ramp but doesn't go much further than to say that Major League Front Offices were in the Stone Ages.

Unfortunately, Moneyball the film ends up being an oversimplification of the scouts versus stats debate with an extremely one-sided take on the issue. The scouts are painted as stodgy old men unable to stomach a challenging of the status quo or to adjust to any sort of change.

From a baseball nerd's standpoint, this was a bit of a disappointment.

Having said that, the movie itself was pretty good. While some of the deviations from the book may bother those who read it, artistic license is obviously employed for the sake of streamlining the story and dramatic effect. The changes are understandable, as elements such as the draft had no bearing on the season itself. Working with a Steven Zaillian draft, Aaron Sorkin's presumed polish on the dialogue definitely shows, and Moneyball is rife with humor. The film looks pretty good, although the occasional departure from realistic shooting during some of the baseball sequences was sort of irksome. Not surprisingly, Brad Pitt carries the film, and Jonah Hill ably pulls off being his complement.

The seemingly universal acclaim seems a little surprising but is mostly from the general public with the baseball community seeing the film as much more of a mixed bag. Personally, the film was solid but not spectacular, and it was a bit difficult to separate the book from the filmic interpretation of the book.

1 comment:

KRD said...

I took my dad to see it last weekend. It is my new favorite baseball movie. But the amount I like a baseball movie is probably inversely proportional to the amount of baseball in said movie. And this movie didn't feature much baseball.

That said, it lost points for the HUGE amount of chewing. I mean, seriously? I know that B.B. likely chews like a deep-thinkin' cow, but does anyone want to WATCH that for 2 and a half hours? I know I don't. I'd trade authenticity for comfort in this case.

I mean, if we had smell-o-vision would studios assault audiences with the stench of thousands of sweaty bodies in films about ancient Rome? C'mon!

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