I’m not much of a one for baseball (or, heck, any sports). I don’t profess or even pretend to know what the hell it’s all about. Through pop cultural osmosis I have learned some of the basics: loaded bases, home runs, the outfield (with or without angels) and beer & hotdogs. But the actual structure of the game, how it all actually works, eludes me. Not that that stands in the way of me enjoying your typical baseball movie; whether that be the antics of The Sandlot Kids or… um, I actually can’t think of another. In any case, you don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of the sport to enjoy a well crafted sports film.
But what about when the film is actually about the ins and outs? Specifically, this based on a true story about how, through the use of statistical matching, a low-ranking Major League team came within a whisker of winning the World Series? It helps that the cast is lead by the ever charismatic Brad Pitt as washed up player/Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane and the script is, in part, credited to Aaron Sorkin. Still, whether because it was all about the ins-and-outs or if it was missing something deeper, Moneyball left me cold.
As Jonah Hill, who plays the nerdy math guy behind the statistics, stated continually during press for the film, you don’t need to understand computer code or programming language to understand and enjoy The Social Network. But where Fincher and Sorkin’s film about the founding of facebook and the legal suits that followed is quite clearly about success and it’s cost, Moneyball doesn’t quite hit a similarly rich thematic vein. Beane's acceptance and insistence on the use of statistical analysis to populate his team ruffles the requisite old school feathers and gives a shot to players who would otherwise be put out to pasture.
Capote director Bennett Miller does fairly solid work with the Sorkin/Steve Zaillian script (even bringing along chum Phillip Seymour Hoffman for what amounts to little more than an extended cameo as the antagonistic coach). And that really sums up the film: solid, with an intelligent and witty script brought to life by an on-form Pitt and an up-to-the-task Jonah Hill but never quite becoming exceptional. Pitt and Hill play well off one another, with Pitt's Beane trying to balance his work and family life with his young daughter, but the emotional core never quite resonated with me. Moneyball is a film then, that is very good but never quite reaching "great".