Friday, 2 December 2011

Moneyball, dir. Bennett Miller, wr. Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, based on Moneyball by Michael Lewis, st. Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill

I must confess I do find it rather hard to fully engage with a sports movie. Detractors of Sorkin's short-lived Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip claimed its Achilles Heel was that unlike in The West Wing, whether or not a weekly light entertainment show airs in time was not high stakes enough to make for compulsive, compelling viewing; a background in Theatre means that I empathise with the pressures of mounting a production on a very personal level, and similarly, were I an avid consumer of agony and ecstasy, maybe I'd feel some of the pride and exhilaration that goes with team supporting. That said, Moneyball is an intelligent and involving biopic of the Oakland Athletics baseball team's general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) and his attempts to cobble together the ultimate team, not by buying players with the league's meagre cash flow, but by using Peter Brand (Hill) and his Microsoft Excel skills in selecting affordable but overlooked batsmen solely by their high base percentages. There're whispers of Sorkin's trademark wordsmithery to be found if one listens hard enough, and the performances are assured but muted. There's some clever intercutting of stock game footage that reinforces the story's real-life roots, but there's a lack of palpable excitement that might have injected some more drama into this slow-burner.