Moneyball is the true story about Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics during the 2001-2002 season of the MLB. Faced with a tight budget, Billy Beane must reinvent his team by disregarding conventional baseball wisdom. He teams up with Ivy League graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and uses modern day analytics and statistics to select bargain bin players who may be flawed but have game winning potential, much to the dismay of the other scouts, coaches and owners of the Oakland Athletics.
I don’t follow baseball and have never seen a baseball game in my life; both on the field or on television. Given this, my understanding of the sport is extremely limited. I am unfamiliar with rules, jargon, players or tactics used to create a championship winning team. However after watching Moneyball, I felt that my understanding of the sport was more than sufficient. This movie does an outstanding job in making this sport seem so accessible to all audiences. You don’t have to be an avid fan of a sport to appreciate good filmmaking. There are themes in this movie that transcend the sport. .
At the heart of Moneyball is also a great personal story about Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). He is so much more than just a general manager looking to make a difference in baseball. His backstory is a bit of tragedy because it involved him making a crucial life decision at a young age that forever impacted his career and aspirations. His backstory brilliantly bleeds into his current philosophy as a manager. He does not make decisions based on money and his ultimate goal is not to make records for his team but win championships. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane delivers one of the greatest performances of his career. His portrayal of the character is nuanced and authentic. He is supported well by a brilliant ensemble cast, which includes Chris Pratt, Jonah Hill and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP).
But more than the characters, Moneyball is an attack on the conventional wisdom of baseball. The outdated wisdom that decided a player’s future success based on emotion using criteria such as a player’s appearance, youth, behavior. Billy Beane’s selection of a reinvigorated Oakland Athletic’s team involved the usage of a controversial mathematical system that selected players solely based on their stats. Emotion was thrown out the window. For the first half of the film, you are led to believe that Beane is a madman. But over the course of time, the fruits of his labor emerged. The reality is that his strategy was successful and is emulated by nearly every MLB team today.
Many people consider Moneyball to be a sports movie, but to me it is so much more than that. I feel drawn to this movie because at the heart of it, it is a discussion about the instincts that we use to determine one’s success. Some use intuition, others (such as Billy Beane) used reason to create a successful baseball team. I didn’t have to know much about baseball to appreciate good filmmaking, which Moneyball has. However I can’t help but think that I would have enjoyed the film even more had I known more about the sport.