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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Moneyball May Actually Appeal More to Non-Baseball Types

When screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin (Social Network) and Steve Zaillian (Schindlers List) - credited with the screenplay of Moneyball - have a good story to tell, watch out. We're in for something special, because they can certainly write exceptional dialogue. Just rerun that first scene of Social Network over and over where Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is talking to his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). (Zaillian apparently wrote the script for the upcoming - is it really much-anticipated? - Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which stars Mara.) After seeing Moneyball yesterday, I just don't know if this was a great story to tell. It certainly is a quality film. We get lots of zippy, slyly poignant dialogue, impressive acting (Brad Pitt is incredibly likeable here, Jonah Hill has become the king of that "Who me?" kind of acting and Philip Seymour Hoffman Has the deadpanning down) and very competent directing from Bennett Miller (Capote). And there's a scene with a 12-year-old girl singing that just kills. But the film drags a bit towards the end, and as a baseball movie that's not really about baseball, it just doesn't get enough right for me.
I believe many of the good reviews have come from critics who don't know baseball. If you do, there's just so much that doesn't figure well. And I don't mean little details like a Washington DC movie where the Metro comes up in Georgetown. The team at the center of this story, the Oakland Athletics, really didn't achieve anything and haven't since Billy Beane has been in charge. So the film tries to key on a record winning streak, but those don't matter that much in sports unless they lead to a title. For the sake of the story, the film focuses on 2 or 3 moves that Beane made and ignores so much else. It's just hard to buy into this knowing that the foundation is flimsy. I'm not saying that it's not true; it's more that probably the analyses and theories that worked for the book just don't carry the gravitas to make a great film. Robin Wright is totally wasted as his ex-wife. (Didn't even realize that was her. Will she or Maria Bello ever show age?)
So I'll probably watch Bull Durham for the 10th time the next time it's on. For Moneyball, even though I admire the dialogue and performances, once was fine.

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