Moneyball, Bennet Miller’s biographical baseball drama about Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, and his revolutionary approach to managing a sports team, was perhaps a surprise Oscar hit in 2011.
It may not have won anything on the night, but six nominations is impressive for such an understated film – even one that does star Brad Pitt in the lead role.
While baseball doesn’t have a huge following in the UK, Moneyball’s focus on the behind-the-scenes wrangling of the game means that it remains accessible to all. Based on a true story, Billy Beane’s team are struggling and underperforming until he brings Jonah Hill’s Peter Brand on board, and begins to run the club by the unconventional young man’s statistical know-how.
Brand’s belief is that the key to unearthing a winning team is all in the numbers. As such, Beane ditches his supposed ‘big players’ and brings in the overlooked nobodies that are nonetheless backed by the stats. Everyone thinks he’s lost his mind – until the Oakland A’s start winning.
A film about statistics and back-room baseball negotiations might not sound riveting, but Miller’s film is almost as compelling for sports fans as betting at Titanbet. Brad Pitt is on fine form as the man calling the shots: his Beane is less interested in actually winning, as he is changing the rules of the management game itself. This a film about the old ways clashing with the new – it may be about baseball, but that’s a pretty universal theme. And knowing that the real-life Beane’s efforts effectively did change the way sports teams are run only adds more heft to his quest.
There’s fine support from Jonah Hill as unassuming numbers man Peter Brand (although it’s hardly a role or performance deserving of the Oscar nomination it received) and from the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the sullen manager and public face of the Oakland A’s, who rallies against Beane’s radical new direction.
Blessed with a wonderful soundtrack and score from Mychael Danna, and downbeat, almost documentary-style cinematography by Wally Pfister, Moneyball is an inauspicious and unflashy drama that nonetheless sucks you in; it’s simple, uncomplicated narrative is actually rather refreshing, and Brad Pitt is captivating as the unfulfilled but slick general manager.
And for any football fans, now would be a timely moment to revisit Moneyball, as it’s difficult not to equate the film’s story of a group of overlooked and undervalued players rising implausibly from the very bottom to the very top with the unlikely story of the previously relegation threatened Leicester City’s impending victory in the English Premier League.
Wonder if Leicester City’s owners took a trip to see Moneyball?