OBP. Not sure what that means? It stands for on-base percentage and it’s the central statistic behind the art of Moneyball, a system for signing baseball players that all the other teams pass over because their stats in the more noticed and glamorized areas are poor. You don’t care because you are not a baseball fan? Well, like a previous film script written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Moneyball uses its true-life story to deliver a broader message, though baseball fans probably will get a bigger kick out of it in the end.
In 2001, the Oakland A’s lost the elimination game of the ALDS (American League Divisional Series) to the New York Yankees. The combined salary of the Yankees team at the time was about $140 million. The combined salary for the A’s was about $30 million. Billy Beane (the GM of the A’s and former charmed baseball prospect whose career went nowhere) had his hands full building the 2002 A’s team, as bigger-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox had gutted his line-up by signing its three best players for themselves all because they have the money to do so. With no money to spend on top-rung players, Billy–with the help of a Yale graduate with a degree in economics–attempts to revolutionize the art of building a baseball team, which, in turn, ruffles a lot of feathers in their organization and around the league. That is, until, of course, it starts to work.
Like a game of baseball, Moneyball takes its time to develop and slows down a bit after a rush of highs till the next big play comes. It’s something that could turn off a few viewers, but will entertain others who may decide to get high and try to synch up the film with a classic ball game, a la The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. If you are willing to spend the time with the developing storyline and heavy information situations, the entire experience is pretty rewarding. Sure, the film breezes past the fact that Moneyball was not a system created by Beane and his assistant GM, but, rather, they merely put it into play—and they did it like no one had ever done before. There is also plenty of room for argument over its lasting effects on the game, or at least the way the game is portrayed in the film. As mentioned at some point, apparently the system has allowed some big-name teams to benefit more than the A’s. The fact is, those teams were big-market teams with lots of money and won with the aid of the high-priced players Oakland lost, to start this whole thing rolling. But all of the fictional additions and slight re-tooling of the behind-the-scenes action make for a well-rounded piece, compared to just a barrage of numbers and statistics.
Of course, Brad Pitt is the star of Moneyball, which means it will do well, and he himself did a fine job. You also have Philip Seymour Hoffman and a line of cameos from Robin Wright, Spike Jonze, and Arliss Howard. Yet, my favorite piece of Moneyball was Jonah Hill. I just posted my review of 50/50, where I complain massively about Hill’s cohort, Seth Rogen, playing the same role (that is, himself) over and over again. It may just be happenstance, but seeing Hill the next day in a role where he is obviously showing growth was a pure joy. He didn’t break any boundaries with the role, but for someone who is always on one side of an extreme personality, it was a pleasure to watch him play a part that was well balanced with some subtle nuances layered in.
The fact of the matter is, just like with The Social Network, there will be plenty of people who will refuse to watch this movie because they do not care about baseball. Oddly enough, it was the overall message of the society we have become and our want to be needed that made me enjoy The Social Network. With Moneyball, the main theme of reaching and over-performing one goal, while not even realizing it or fully enjoying it, is a nice sentiment, but it was a lot of the baseball facts and statistics that pulled me in. Not many films these days can entertain a wide range of tastes and interests, and Moneyball is a great example of one that can.
Rating: 4 out of 5 ‘Staches