Something has been happening in the world of film that has so far escaped my notice until a friend of mine brought it to my attention recently. It is the emergence of a new genre of filmmaking – that is, the combination of two different methods of storytelling. These are the drama and the documentary, making for a new kind of film called “statistic-drama”. This was a style perhaps epitomized by last year’s The Social Network, and has again this year been expanded upon by a fine new movie, also from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin; the solid and highly well-achieved Moneyball.
Based upon the book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball is the tale of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (played by Hollywood king Brad Pitt), a man hard-set on creating a successful and respected baseball team out of his organization’s tight budget. Unable to buy anyone with a high price value, Beane searches for other methods of picking players that differ from the instinct-based practices of his scouts. This leads him to a young man named Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), a newly-graduated Yale student who has a theory about the power of a player’s statistics in judging how effective he is. Beane takes this concept into practice immediately, but both the controversy and the risk that arises from his new method of dealing with players threaten to ruin his career.
An expertly handled film, this story could have been much more emotionless and fact-oriented than it is. Thankfully however, screenwriters Sorkin and Steven Zaillian – along with director Bennett Miller – manage to produce a top-notch project that takes its time in presenting what is ultimately a very rewarding experience. Some of the scenes between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are written with true feeling and wit, and several sequences – including the nerve-wracking home run scene – are tremendously exhilarating to watch and are orchestrated with powerful direction.
As for Mr. Pitt – he is at the top of his game here and is truly successful in depicting the inner turmoil of a man desperate for just that – success. His portrayal of Billy Beane is that of a man who has chosen one way of living and tries with all his might to make the most of what life has given him. It is Pitt’s talent paired with the exquisite dialogue by the film’s two writers that brings to life one man’s truly memorable story. Also worth mentioning is the film’s supporting cast, with Jonah Hill doing something worthwhile with his nerd persona, and fine work from Kerris Dorsey as Billy Beane’s daughter, Casey.
My final word on Moneyball is that it is good stuff – a film that manages to capture the uncertainty, and the drawn-out but effective pace of baseball. It also – despite its basis in a largely impersonal concept – tells the story of one man who merely wants to make the best of his life – something that we can all relate to as romantic human beings. As Beane puts it, “You can’t help but be romantic about baseball”. Indeed, can one help being romantic about life?