Movie of the Week: Moneyball (2011)

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Bennett Miller directs Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman in this true story about baseball management where a former player and an economics graduate try to craft a series winning team using player statistics rather than million dollar paychecks.

Anyone who has talked to me about movies of the last decade will at some point heard me say “I watched Moneyball again last night… It is really good.” I watch it. A lot. And I’m now comfortable saying, right here, right now, in this moment it is probably my favourite film. Of all time. The greatest. Ever. Not yours. Mine. Bobby Carroll 2018. It is the combined work of a lot of talented people gelling together to make a perfect product. Brad Pitt, the movie star, finally finding a lead role in his comfort zone. Billy Beane gives his finest qualities a home where his swagger and his goofyness and his cockiness and his looks fit snugly. Watching him calmly bluff his way through negotiations, bite his tongue, circle around a question, speak his mind bluntly… it suits him, tailor made, incorporating his cool. Jonah Hill, Chris Pratt and Philip Seymour Hoffman all have fine moments. Bennett Miller even gets strong acting from baseball stars like Stephen Bishop (when it was Stephen Soderbergh project he wanted nothing but baseball players in key roles). They are given a script by two of Hollywood’s premium wordsmiths; Sorkin and Zallian. It is an erudite, elegant piece of work… statistical theory is guided at us within an unfolding character study. Billy Beane’s game changing attitude and frustrations are unboxed in shimmering flashbacks and boardroom conflicts. His fall from top draft pick to back room has-been speaks to me… the issues of confidence, anger and over expectation resulting in acceptance and knowledge and pragmatic disillusionment match what I went through in my decade in comedy. Talked about open spot who moved swiftly onto paid work only not to have the sea legs or material to work that early in the pro circuit… give me a baseball bat during those first three years of regular death and closed doors and I would smash it against the dug out cages too. Personal aside, Moneyball looks gorgeous too. A love letter to corporate Americana. When people want to know what our era really looked like it will be DoPs Wally Pfister’s concrete parking structures, mahogany waiting areas and PVC banners falling to the floor. It will be the pixels of an Excel sheet being stared into too deeply. Moneyball isn’t really about baseball. We only glimpse gameplay… like Reservoir Dogs we see very little of the heist. Leather meets maplewood only a few fleeting times. We see the planning, the fallout. This is a film about redemption. About finding your niche and your strength and not accepting the status quo. About giving the little guy and yourself a second chance. It is Capra with less cheesy schmaltz, Spielberg without the otherworldly fantasy.  The use of This Will Destroy You’s rousing instrumental track as a cue to echo the nostalgia, hope and doubt our Billy Beane goes through as he reinvents baseball will strum even the hardest hearts. Moneyball is an unspectacular piece of film making really, but that doesn’t stop it from being a harmonious, inspiring and comforting one. The lack of edge or joins or snags is what make it my greatest film. I’ve just never seen something so flawlessly captivating. Keep watching it, learn its lessons. “It’s a process, it’s a process.” Eventually I’ll exhaust its magic. Maybe I’ll go back to Miller’s Crossing or Don’t Look Now or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or True Romance. Maybe by then there’ll be something new.

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