Have you ever tried to watch baseball on TV and been bored to tears? You go to the park and it’s fun; the smells (nachos, hot dogs, pretzels), the sounds (crack of the bat, ushers yelling “peanuts!”), and even the game. You start thinking about the time you struck out the best hitter in Little League, etc. Yet if nothing else is on and you turn on a baseball game, it’s boring. And I was a tad bored watching this slowly paced two hour movie. It should be better. The book was very compelling.
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, manager of the Oakland A’s. The team had a low payroll, so he has to get the most bang for his buck. I could appreciate him playing the numbers game. I’ve been doing fantasy football for 25 years and that’s something you’re always conscious of during the draft.
When one season ends, Beane finds out he’s losing three of his best players. And what team is snatching them up? You guessed it. The big payrolls – the Yankees and Red Sox.
Beane meets Peter Brand, played nicely by Jonah Hill. People are saying he’ll get an Oscar nomination, and he probably will. It seems like a rather easy role to play, though. Brand is out of Yale, has an economics degree, and Beane noticed during a negotiation that another team seems to really respect his opinion. He quickly snatches him up and they start crunching numbers (doesn’t that sound exciting?).
The scouts don’t like how they crunch numbers. They’d prefer paying $10 million for a proven star. Who knows if these young players that are cheaper will really get similar numbers. It was a risky move.
This leads to a scene that everyone loved, yet I’ve seen one too many times. The scouts are angrily expressing their views on what Beane is doing. When they ask him a question, instead of answering he points to Brand. Brand nervously answers. When another scout asks a different question to Beane, he points to Brand again. Brand looks back at Beane, and answers that question.
I thought the back story on Beane’s playing career was interesting, yet I hated the scenes with his one-dimensionally written ex-wife (Robin Wright). We’re supposed to buy the fact that she’s now married to a guy that knows nothing about baseball. It’s as if she was so burned out by her life with Beane, she had to get as far away from it as possible. Okay, fine…but am I really supposed to believe that he couldn’t pronounce the name of the teams most popular player? I don’t care how weird a name it is, if he’s the best player in your city, you’ve heard the name pronounced many times. Those are dramatic Hollywood scenes that pander to a crowd that doesn’t mind clichés and would prefer to be easily walked through the narrative. I find them insulting my intelligence.
Things get a little more interesting when Philip Seymour Hoffman, as manager Art Howe, shows up. Boy does he have a great look as a baseball manager. Not since Wilfred Brimley (The Natural) has an actor looked so much like a major league manager.
Director Bennett Miller worked with Hoffman before (Capote). I would’ve liked to ask him why he felt the need to do at least five close-ups of Brad Pitt just sitting there, pondering his fate. Yeah, I know. It’s Brad Pitt, but still.
Stephen Bishop (not the San Diegan balladeer with those 70s/80s easy listening hits) played David Justice, and he knocked it out of the park. I’ve never seen him before, he had a great presence on the screen.
The script was written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. I expect more from the guy that gave us the movies A Few Good Men, Malice, American President, Social Network, and the series The West Wing.
Perhaps showing more baseball footage would’ve livened things up a bit. Instead, this movie strikes out more than it gets on base.
This movie was only batting .225 with me.