Wednesday, 15 February 2012

2011 films: #7


Directed by Bennett Miller

Every year produces a sports film that happens to be so good, so gripping and so powerful you just completely disregard all the clichés that go with the experience. In 2009 it was The Damned United, in 2010 it was The Fighter, and in 2011 it’s unquestionably Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, a beautiful, addictive ode to baseball – whatever you might think of the sport.

Moneyball is a real-life story telling of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and the team he manages, Oakland Athletics. The club is going through hard financial times, and coupled with the fact that its biggest names are leaving for Oakland’s more moneyed rivals – the situation looks desperate. However, Beane is full of hope. Possessing incredible vigour and unwavering dedication, belief in the club and its bright future, he keeps looking for that touch of spark, creativity that could blow his club into the stratosphere. This spark comes with the arrival of his new assistant, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Peter is a young economics Yale graduate, and he has developed a peculiar theory of how to buy the best players without spending as much as the league’s richest clubs. It’s good stuff, and the team’s initial frustration and seemingly endless run of bad results make it all the more intriguing and electrifying.

The films is smart, occasionally funny, well-acted, and has a brilliant sting where a dull happy ending would normally be. Speaking of acting, there’s no question that Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Oakland’s coach) are both effective in their roles. But it’s the performance of Jonah Hill (who was phenomenal in last year’s Cyrus) – who gives it all a more amusing, even slightly comic edge – that hits me hardest.   

The clichés? Yes, we have them, but a sports movie is quite possibly the only genre where a cliché is exactly what makes it all so appealing and so exciting. You might even forgive them that saccharine pop song theme which reappears two or three times throughout the film. If anything, it’s quite catchy.

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