My first movie review
I’m going to take a crack at this for the first time here on the blog. I don’t know what I’m supposed to critique, or if I’m supposed to give it a number out of 10, or what they normally do, and I know there are folks that watch movies and review them for a living… what a gig. But I went to see Moneyball for the first time this weekend, and I…
loved it. Finally, somebody made a movie about a topic that interests me. I thought I’d never see the day. And I don’t mean sports, there’s a hundred of those flicks. Some good, some awful. But I mean about the real-life, inner-workings of a team behind the scenes. Not fantasized, made for the big screen, at least not to the extent where the story itself is fabricated. This is the real-life industry, and they made a movie about it, and they made it seemingly realistic (as far as I can tell), and they made it well. I was sorry to see the credits signaling the end.
Before he gets a chance, you will probably see negative comments from Paul Braverman who has no interest in seeing the movie, simply because he knows how the 2002 A’s season ended, which in his mind makes watching the movie pointless. So I’m going to steal his thunder here before he can trash my review, but we do have that to look forward to later. And with any luck, another rant to go with it, similar to the one I just listened to here firsthand in the marketing suite.
Now, back to the movie.
It seems, especially since marriage, that every movie I’ve been forced to watch the last two years is about some girl that thinks a guy likes her, but he really doesn’t, or some guy that likes some girl and she pretends to like him but is only doing it because she’s writing an article for her magazine on how to dump him. You know, they’re all the same. I’ve written before about my deep interest in the inner-workings of what GMs do, and how teams are built, and to think I was sitting down to watch a movie about that very topic.
First off, it is based on a true story, and a pretty incredible 2002 season for the low-budget A’s. There’s real game-footage throughout the movie, but Hollywood didn’t do anything to protect the names of any of these characters. In some cases, certain high-profile names are portrayed in a less-than-ideal light. Nothing scandalous or anything like that, no performance-enhancing substance abuse claims or anything from that tired topic. But you don’t negatively portray someone recklessly and falsely, that would be slander. This just, to me, seemed like little things in the clubhouse and behind the scenes that probably did happen. I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but everything seemed pretty realistic about how signings and trades went down, and baseball life itself.
I also thought Brad Pitt was great. Again, I don’t know how Billy Beane is in real life, and I confess I’ve never read the book either, but Pitt portrayed him as very bright, very shrewd, very intense, and very confident in his decision-making from a position of power. There was an arrogance that I thought made the character very likeable, and that seems necessary for a person in his position. There were times that his personality and some of the things he said came off as humorous, but either way it was always entertaining. Lots of scenes of his manager and advisors giving him grief over personnel decisions, and Pitt boldly dismissing them, sometimes firing the person on the spot, or just ignoring their input and going above their heads to make his team the way he wanted. The intensity of some of the behind-the-scenes portions was great.
How do you make a movie centering on the challenges that a small-market baseball team faces and appeal to non baseball fans? I don’t know if it appeals to non baseball fans or not, but having seen it, I would think that it could. They took a topic that interests people like me and probably you too if you’re reading this, but certainly not everyone, and they built an entire movie around it. They stuck to that central storyline throughout the film, and it worked. Even if you knew the end result of the A’s season. It was just very entertaining from start to finish. I didn’t want to miss a word.
They also showed the stress that a big league GM must go through on a daily basis with some pretty good scenes on that topic. Struggles with his staff, the owner, agents, the manager, and how he handled that. And there were scenes that were more about Beane’s personal life, and the human aspect of it all, how he is away from the job which added to it and helped tie the whole story together. There needed to be a storyline that was bigger than just one team’s baseball season, and that’s how they came to it.
I loved the scenes with Pitt dealing with other GMs, and in some cases players, and how he’d handle certain situations that would arise. However it may have actually happened in real life, the way it was written in the movie, Beane is brilliant. Very sharp. I loved that stuff. He played Beane as a guy who knows exactly what players he wants within the constrictions of his salary situation, and he goes out and makes it happen. And a guy who knows exactly how to deal with different personalities, whether it’s his players and how to get the most out of them when his manager can’t, a manager that goes against him at every turn, or his general manager cohorts and how he’d work them over to get what he’d want.
This is probably the most juvenile movie review you’ve ever read, and I’m sure that being a die-hard baseball fan influences my review, but I’d been waiting awhile to see this movie, and it was everything I hoped it would be when I first heard that it was coming out. Can’t wait for the DVD to come out for any bonus material.
Have a feeling I’ll be paying a little more attention this winter to the moves that the real-life Beane will make, who by the way is on the last year of his contract in Oakland.
I’d recommend the movie to any baseball fan in a heartbeat. And if you’re not particularly interested in behind the scenes stuff like that, you’ll probably have a new appreciation for the business of the game. Very interesting. Never thought a movie would be made about a professional sports general manager, but it was great.