October 29, 2011

Moneyball

Who knew you could make a compelling movie about statistics?

I am not a statistics expert, but I love sharing interesting baseball stats so much, that I struck a deal with my wife: I only share ONE interesting baseball stat per week from the Boston Sunday Globe's Baseball coverage. While reading the MONEYBALL book, I had to limit myself to one tidbit per chapter. Lots of tongue-biting going on.

MONEYBALL the movie is also interesting and well-told, even if there isn't a lot of plot. A baseball career as a metaphor for life isn't a new idea, but Brad Pitt is compelling playing Athletics GM Billy Beane, a grown-up real person who's coming to terms with the good and bad choices in his past, while he makes similar "life choices" for the life of his baseball team. Who better to discover that the team need to turn its back on tradition than a man who learned too late that he wasn't meant to be a traditional baseball player?
Jonah Hill (right) does not play a passive-aggressive
bitter rageaholic in this movie, for a change.

Making changes to a baseball team is like u-turning a cruise ship: you can't expect to see results right away. It's convenient for the plot of the movie that the same season that Beane makes his radical changes to the Athletics, the team caps that season with a dramatic winning streak, featuring of Beane's radical Moneyball choices, newbie first baseman Scott Hatteberg (the terrific Chris Pratt). Maybe less convenient for the movie (and the Moneyball philosophy as a whole)? In the following decade, the Athletics have won 90 games only four times (with three playoff appearances).

Brad Pitt deserves some award recogition for his quiet, deep portrayal of a mid-life... well, it's not a crisis, more of a mid-life re-evaluation. Also, it's nice to see Pitt playing a guy who wears polo shirts and drives an SUV. Has he ever played an ordinary dad before? Anyone? My grade: B-plus (Somerville Theater, during the Halloween Snowstorm, with my wife)

MORE Brad Pitt movies on STUB HUBBY