It's an unfair game. We're organ donors for the rich.

Moneyball

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            Do you surrender to a moment of awestruck silence as you come through the portal to catch first sight of the ball field no matter how many times you've seen it before? You will love Moneyball. So will everybody else. Writers Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and director Bennett Miller have tackled the transition of the game from its honored past to its plunge into the big money game. And here's the best news - their story is funny, tough, tender, and true.
            It is 2001, and general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) slouches alone in the stadium to brood about his team's poor standing and even worse prospects. Facing the loss of three of their best players, the Oakland A's must rebuild their team on a budget of $38 million dollars. The Yankees are pushing the pieces of their puzzle around with $128 million at their disposal. "It's an unfair game, we're organ donors for the rich," Billy says of the way the rich teams gather up the best players from the teams who can't afford raises. They play in the same ballparks but can't sit equally at the trading tables.
            Those tables are the gathering spots for the old time scouts who measure talent by the traditional strengths of a baseball star. Visiting one of these trading tables, Billy catches a quick eye contact transaction between the Cleveland general manager and an employee sitting in the corner. Later on, he approaches the mystery man and asks "Who are you?" The quiet fellow in the corner who has the boss's ear is Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale economics major with a permanent attachment to the laptop that has given him the tools to transform team building.
            Pete's theory posits that he can build a team of 25 low cost players that other teams don't want from a pool of unrecognized strengths. The catcher's arm no longer allows him to throw? Teach him to play first base. He can't hit? How many times does he walk to first base? A player with quiet presence whose team seems to win when he's on the field? It's a metaphor for Billy's own failure in his playing days. He had all the strengths - excepting Pete's x-factor. Suddenly Pete has made the A's budget big enough for rebuilding. Together, they make a three stage plan: The theory, the test of a playing season, the win/loss result. Statistics with heart.
            Brad Pitt's Billy Beane is all sharp edges and determination. Jonah Hill's Pete is the essence of the thinking nerd who is changing one piece of the world with the tools he has mastered. He's all deference and numbers until he blossoms under Billy's intuitive recognition. Good writers abound here, but Aaron Sorkin's fingerprints are all over the crackling script. With a strong supporting cast and a great story, Pitt and Hill create two characters so interesting that they hit the movie right out of the park.
 

 


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