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Like the 2003 book of the same name, Moneyball is the (based on a) true story of a baseball team manager who bucks the entrenched, traditional way of selecting players and instead employs computer-based analysis (much to the frustration of the establishment). It provides interesting (but hardly revolutionary) insight into the inner machinations of professional sport, including the role of money and relationships.
This is certainly not a film that you need to be a baseball fan (or even a sports fan) to enjoy. It is as much about the frustrations of challenging the status quo and the difficulties of organisational change, as it is about sport.
Reviewers across the US are describing Moneyball as The Social Network of sports movies, and it's easy to see why. The two movies might have vastly different plots, characters and settings, yet the stories are told in a similar way.
This is most apparent in the pacing. Many Hollywood movies seem in a rush to draw you in, demanding your attention and emotional commitment from the very first scene. Instead, Moneyball is comfortable to take the time to set the context, letting the story emerge in its own time.
Then, there's the characters. While Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) are more likeable than The Social Network's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, they're still a long way from the two-dimensional 'heroes' Hollywood so often throws us.
The main character - Billy Beane - is an arrogant, angry man, hung up on his own past failure to succeed as a player. He blames his decision to stake his future on professional baseball on the ill-fated promises of a talent scout who greatly overestimated his potential. This is the catalyst for his openness to a whole new approach offered by economist Peter Brand. Peter is an overweight, awkward man who believes in his methodology but lacks the confidence and skill to advocate it.
These similarities are hardly surprising. Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay for The Social Network also co-wrote Moneyball.
Overall, I didn't particularly enjoy this movie, but I suspect that's as much a matter of personal taste as quality (I didn't like The Social Network either).
I found the 'flashbacks' to Billy's early years clunky and lacking in subtlety. Peripheral characters, such as Billy's ex wife, are so woodenly two dimensional that I was left wondering why they are in the plot at all. And even the main two protagonists aren't particularly compelling. It wasn't that I liked them or didn't like them - when it came down to it I just didn't really care.
Also, I'm sure it's very true-to-life that everyone on the baseball scene chews tobacco, but the constant spitting into cups just made me feel a bit ill.