Review: MONEYBALL (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 27 February 2012

Review: MONEYBALL (2011)

RATING: 3.5/5

Breaking the traditional sports-movie formula we often seen in the past, MONEYBALL is the kind of rare gem we don't get to see everyday -- a movie about baseball where scenes involving on-the-field action moments are depicted as minor footage and instead focusing more on behind-the-scenes of how team is managed through statistics, odds of winning, and such. It might sounds boring for most viewers, but rest assured that director Bennett Miller and screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, managed to craft a risky subject matter into a surprisingly fascinating movie as exciting as watching a traditional baseball movie itself.

Based on a non-fiction bestseller by Michael Lewis, the movie focuses on Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who is used to be a phenomenal baseball player himself in the big leagues until he decided to call it a quit. He is brought in to reshape the struggling team who's been on a losing streak for way too long. Not only that, the team is about to lose their three best players to free agency and to make things worse, he is given a tight budget which prevents him to spend as much as big favorites like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Billy figures he can't think like any other general manager in the baseball team and needs a radical change of tactics.

Then one day he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an Ivy League economics major working as an executive assistant for scouting on Cleveland Indians. He quickly admires the way how Peter values the players by crunching numbers and working through statistics rather than relying on the same old traditional intuitions based on gut instincts. And so Billy immediately buys him over to help him out instead. Most of the old-timers who are in charge to manage the team together doesn't like the unconventional method both Billy and Peter handle the situation differently. But Billy believes he's doing the right thing and doesn't hesitate to trade their overpaid players in favor for lower-paid and undervalued athletes who can statistically deliver more than what they are bargained for. Team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) thinks he's out of his mind, but he doesn't have a choice but to go along with Billy's radical approach as the new season gets underway.

As expected, MONEYBALL is a talky movie and it could have been a painfully frustrating experience to sit through if this is done by a lesser hand. Fortunately Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin's adapted screenplay is savvy enough to keep the viewers, even those who doesn't have interest in baseball, entertained throughout the movie. In fact, it's really hard to believe that watching a movie which talk about statistics and numbers can actually be this fun and intriguing after all.

Then there's Bennett Miller's carefully-measured direction. Like his critically-acclaimed debut in CAPOTE (2005), which won Philip Seymour Hoffman the Best Actor Oscar, he knows well how to milk great performances from his actors. Brad Pitt delivers one of his best performances in his career as Billy Beane. He has that high spirit and charisma that resemblance the kind of a role where young Robert Redford used to play during his prime. Not only that, he also gives a genuinely soulful performance especially where in the scenes which involves his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey). For Jonah Hill who is best known for tackling comedic role, gives a surprisingly subdued and radically different performance as the intelligent geek Peter Brand. The rest of the supporting actors are equally good as well, including the ever-reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman as the team manager Art Howe and of course the 13-year-old Kerris Dorsey. In one particularly memorable moment, she sings Lenka's 2008 song, The Show to her dad while strumming the guitar she's picked up at a music store. It may have been a simple scene, but it's the way how the special moment is depicted during that scene alone -- it's just that beautiful.

Production-wise, MONEYBALL is just as beautifully atmospheric, particularly the way how cinematographer Wally Pfister captured the movie in a dreamlike state.

MONEYBALL is far from perfect or as absorbing as like, say, last year's THE SOCIAL NETWORK (which was also penned by Aaron Sorkin) but one can't deny this is one of the best movies of the year.

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