Moneyball (Spoiler Alert)

21 09 2011

*I’ll be nice and warn you not to read this if you don’t want to read details of the Moneyball movie. Go read Quotes of the Week again.*

What do I know about Moneyball? I know I’ve read it twice and the first time, in 2006, I obliterated the book in about two days. That was at a time when I had ramped up my interest in fantasy sports; my mind was intrigued about analyzing the game from a quantitative perspective in order to discover “true” player value. I never thought while reading the book that Brad Pitt would one day play the part of Billy Beane.

I was invited to an advanced screening of Moneyball earlier tonight. I certainly wasn’t among the first members of the general public to see it. There was a media screening Sunday night, and I believe a premiere in Oakland last night. Tonight, I joined hundreds (I think) of others at the Regal Cinema on W. 42nd Street and turned in my cell phone (!) before going into the theater. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had heard this movie was sort of like the Social Network for baseball. I guess that conclusion was drawn, in part, by Aaron Sorkin holding a screenwriting credit for each movie.

I’ll get to the point. Most folks who know little to nothing about baseball, Billy Beane or Moneyball will probably like this flick. It’s well-acted (Pitt nails Beane’s spirit), well-written and has a good pace to it, with a slight lull toward the 10-20 minute mark near the end. The audience at my show, who I presume didn’t know much about Moneyball, laughed at a lot of parts of the movie at which I would expect people without Moneyball knowledge would laugh. People got it.

Most folks like me, a die-hard baseball fan who’s read the book, will get annoyed at how dumbed-down the movie is for the unenlightened crowd. Not that it’s a bad thing. This is a movie, so it must contain the emotion and yearning to explain itself that attracts people who aren’t baseball fans. The only thing I was truly disappointed in was that the movie ignored the MLB Draft process. Those were my favorite clips from the book, where Michael Lewis explained in great detail and energy how Beane managed a draft – the pitfalls and joy that come with it.

I don’t know what else to say about Moneyball. Jonah Hill was passable, although his character’s name was not the actual person portrayed in the book. (This didn’t disappoint me so much because I figured the real-life character didn’t give approval for his name to be used.) Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor, so he played Art Howe appropriately. The names of the other actors didn’t ring a bell when I saw them in credits. Robin Wright has only a bit role in the movie.

This is basically one of those films where the lead role is in almost every scene. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if there was a scene that didn’t involve Pitt. One more note: women who like Pitt will adore him in this film. He has great hair. Ultimately, this is a wonderful movie to see for someone who is intrigued by Moneyball but who has little knowledge of it. For the die-hard baseball fan, there is nothing to be learned here that can’t already be consumed in great detail through the book.

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