Bennett Miller showed his directing skill with CAPOTE. His perfectionism and attention to detail and dialogue, acting and setting are all here in MONEYBALL - as is CAPOTE star Philip Seymour Hoffman, who pops up as the coach of the Oakland A's baseball team. But this is not really a baseball movie. The team's general manager (ex-baseball player, Billy Beane) doesn't watch the games lest he jinx the result - and when Billy (played by Brad Pitt) turns away from the games, so does the camera. Rather than focus on the games, this is a film about the backroom wheeling and dealing, player trading and money-saving that helps buy the guys to field a team. Based on the true tale of the underfunded Oakland A's, who were so tight on budget that their players even had to buy their own soda from a machine in the dressing rooms, the movie shows how "GM" Billy Beane puts together a baseball team on a budget - using Jonah Hill's computer data to draft players.
But this ain't no baseball movie. Just like the amazing SOCIAL NETWORK script, this is a movie about dialogue. It's no surprise to find amidst the four or more credited writers such big hitters as Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. When the dialogue's good, it snap crackles and pops. This is especially so in scenes between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Indeed, as if to underline the fact that this isn't just a movie about (yawn) baseball, Jonah shows Brad a baseball player on a video and tells his story (I won't here as it may be a spoiler...) Suffice it to say that the scene ends with Hill stating the movie's subtext right out loud: "It's a metaphor." To which Brad replies: "I know it's a metaphor." We all do! It's a movie! About baseball! C'mon! We've seen THE NATURAL. Talking of which, Pitt doesn't just resemble Robert Redford anymore - he's becoming him! It's like he's channeling Redford throughout.
If this movie shines in the dialogue, then where it shines brightest is in the scenes between Brad Pitt and his 13-year-old on-screen daughter, Kerris Dorsey. These scenes spark in a manner reminiscent of Roy Scheider and his son in Spielberg's JAWS. Here, for example, is Billy Beane saying farewell to his daughter, Casey at the airport...
Billy: You're doing it again.
Billy: You're worrying about me.
Casey: You're in last place dad.
Billy: Do I look worried?
Billy: Cause you're getting on an airplane. Those things crash all the time...
If you liked THE SOCIAL NETWORK for its dialogue and admired how Fincher made a story about computer programming accessible, then you'll love Bennett Miller's equally admirable movie. And whilst you don't have to know about baseball to enjoy it, some knowledge would help. Or then again, maybe not. This is a movie that insists on baseball being a metaphor after all... It's just a shame it had to be so darn blatant about it as to say it out loud! We know already!
4 stars for the dialogue. 1 star off for not trusting the audience to "get it." Anyway, if baseball's a metaphor, then does that mean Charlie Sheen's MAJOR LEAGUE was a deep, intellectual, meta-critique of the social welfare system and his brother Emilio's THE MIGHTY DUCKS was a searing indictment of youthful indifference... or not?