[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B005FLAOLY][/pullquote] Like romantic comedies aimed at female audiences, sports films are one of the most clichÃ©d and formulaic genres in cinema. During the course of the movie you usually have an underperforming team who suddenly get an inspirational new coach or player who lose heavily to highlight the problems in the team. Then a new approach is adopted that stutters to begin with but gets on track, leading to a montaged winning streak, ending in the clinching final game/match of the season, in the last minute, where the former underdogs overcome their arch-rivals to attain success and adulation. Everybody knows it, and while some films mess around with the order, almost all successful sports films have this basic structure. With that in mind, November 2011 say the release of the Brad Pitt-starring sports film Moneyball.
Based on a true story, Moneyball sees Billy Beane (Pitt) as the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Struggling in their competition and losing star players to bigger franchises because of a chronic lack of money, the team look sure to lose throughout the season. While attempting to negotiate for a new player, he meets young economics graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who explains a new system of buying players that will allow them to be successful without having to spend as much as the top teams. Meeting resistance from many of the coaching staff, including Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Billy and Peter must overcome the archaic thinking to prove that their method is correct.
Moneyball takes a unique approach for a sports movie in that there is almost no scenes with the game of baseball. Pitt’s Beane refuses to watch the games live as he is convinced that he will be a jinx to their success, so the majority of the film takes place in offices and cars and involves lots of conversations. What sports footage there is, blends the real events with re-enactments and helps bring a sense of truth to proceedings. The dialogue is witty, fast and crisp, but this is to be expected with both Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian’s names on the screenplay credit.
Resembling The Blind Side in tone and style, Moneyball speeds through the real life events using the always excellent Pitt and the surprisingly good Hill as the chief protagonists. The fact that Hill, a talented comic actor, is able to reign in his usual comedy stick and give a very credible dramatic performance, highlights just how talented he is and what a bright future in dramatic films he has. The supporting cast, including Hoffman, is small but sufficient to get across to the audience just how radical the ideas being attempted were.
An interesting story, with an excellent cast and an unusual approach to sports film footage make Moneyball a fascinating film. It’s less cinematic and more stage-play in it’s presentation, but this is no negative. It ticks all the clichÃ©d boxes for a formulaic sports film, but, like the theory that is espouses, does so in a careful and calculated fashion.