“I know you are taking it in the teeth, but the first guy through the wall… he always gets bloody… always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. It’s threatening the way they do things… and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins – they have their hands on the switch – they go batshit crazy.”
Oddly enough, as I certainly wouldn’t have called this being as good as it was. Yes when I first heard about it I thought it would be good movie, perhaps a great movie, but I was honestly surprised that I feel this was the best movie of the year.
Certainly the acting was better than what I’m used to out of a sports movie. Pitt always does a good job in whatever he’s in (although he does not always pick good scripts, not the case here, but before you throw some bad movie he did back in my face). But while I would say that this wasn’t Pitt’s best performance (Meet Joe Black) it certainly was one of his better ones as we see him go from worry to elation, fury to happiness, and back down to depression again. All the while also emphasizing that he is more than just a GM with a cool idea, showing that he does have a human relationship with his daughter and a true passion for the game. And this is also the first film where I have ever seen Jonah Hill actually act instead of just seem continuously annoying.
Also I love the pacing on this movie which somehow kept all the threads—his personal life, his relationship with Hill’s Brand, his relationship with his manager and trading all of the players—all perfectly balanced so that nothing beyond the Moneyball plan becomes dominant.
And while there a lots of reviews that want to talk about the greatness of the technical aspects (acting, directing, writing, etc) I would like to talk about how thematically this movie leaves all the others behind.
And it is this ingenious plan that makes this movie better than most. It understands economics. It understands basics concepts of economic reality that much of the world does not. For instance the basic truth of “adapt or die” in business. When, as Brad Pitt’s Bille Beane observes, “There are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s fifty-feet of crap, and then there’s us” playing by the same rules that everyone else does, in the same way it’s always been done without any variation will lead only to being under fifty feet of crap and nothing else. So, as in any competitive system, when you’re loosing you need to change the rules and ways you operate by…something that the American public and government might want to take into account when they make their demands that we return to be being an industrial superpower. (I particularly like that when I looked up the real Beane, his biography on Wikipedia says that now that all of baseball has adopted his moneyball offensive strategy in picking players, he has refocused on defensive skills…adapt or die).
This movie shows that you need to go for what works not what people think will work. People counted steals (and a whole of other bizarre data as shown from the first recruiting scene…like if you have an ugly girl friend) when, as it is shown, actually getting to base is more important. It’s similar to modern companies bizarrely caring more about stock price than profit, short-term profit more than long-term profit, the immediate revenue more than a product that will actually sell.
We also see that while this is in some ways kind of obvious as an idea in retrospect (yeah you need to care more about winning than anything else) people will fight it. People will fight change even if it makes sense. Doesn’t matter that the current system isn’t working (as it wasn’t for the A’s) they will fight for the old way and refuse to even try anything new. Beane had to fire people, trade valuable players, and constantly fight up hill just to prove that trying something that in some ways is kind of a no-brainer just to show it works.
It shows that the past is something to be learned from not lived in. In fact Beane rewards Brand for saying that he was a terrible ballplayer. He has no illusions about what his skills were and what mistakes he made, but, unlike most people, he learned not to repeat those mistakes in his own life nor would he try to help others repeat those mistakes.
And most importantly Beane (and the director of this film) understand the importance of character and relationships over money. I know I emphasize money a lot in this blog, because it is important than a lot of things liberals consider important…but he cares more about achieving something than money which is a correct outlook (I’d tell you what
Beane fought, and luckily won, against a system that was making all the same mistakes that are helping cause our current economic problem. This should be one of those movies that every American goes to see and you should take notes.