I saw the movie last night; I don’t feel like writing a full review, plus I am busy today. It is a compelling movie, not so much for the baseball parts, but the human dynamics of the characters in the movie. This isn’t an action film (the baseball scenes drag at some points), or a Rocky type story. It isn’t a rah-rah Billy Beane story either.
A few thoughts — the Shapiro character on the screen represents John Hart. The timeline of the movie had to be compressed (very successfully), so when Beane “discovers” Paul Brand (Depodesto) in Shapiro’s office, that was really John Hart circa 1998-99. This isn’t a criticism of the film — the story line could not have worked had the film jumped back to 1996. The interesting thing about that early scene Indians execs are portrayed as arrogant hot shots who pretty much sneer at Beane. I can certainly picture Hart and the rest of the staff acting that way. The entire Indians organization is portrayed as a top notch, clicking machine at the top of their game — in other words, they had a very good reason to be confident. My, how things have changed.
The Shapiro character on the phone who gets totally worked by Beane in a trade later in the movie fits the time frame for Shapiro as GM. This is one of culminating scenes in the movie. The player Beane covets is Ricardo Rincon, the guy John Hart traded Brian Giles to get. Beane only gave up Marshall McDougall to get him. The scene illustrate show Shapiro could have probably received a lot more for Rincon from other teams, but Beane manipulated a few other GMs (and his own owner) to get his man. The scene is very well done, but Ricardo Rincon? Just why did real life GMs covet hims so much?
There is a terrific scene with Beane and David Justice. I won’t give away anything, but it is a terrific clash of egos, very subtly done, perhaps my favorite scene in the movie.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant as Art Howe.
The compression of the plot timeline works very well, except for one very large opportunity. The acquisition of Jeremy Giambi comes at the beginning of the 2002 season, under Beane and Brands’ new Moneyball era. I fully understand why the producers did this — they didn’t want the 2001 season creeping into the plot. However, Jeremy Giambi was the asshat that didn’t slide on Jeter’s throw in the 2001 ALDS. Had he slid, Jeter’s throw isn’t immortalized, and the A’s probably win the Series. This certainly gnawed at Beane and the old time scouts — Giambi was arbitration eligible, and the A’s kept him around. The complexities of this would have been hard for a non-baseball fan to understand, so I see why it was dropped, but the scene in which Giambi gets traded because he pisses off Beane could have been even better with that backdrop.
While the movie extols taking advantage of market inefficiencies and the importance of OBP, it pulls no punches in showing that Beane and Brand ultimately failed at reaching the World Series. There is no happy, Hollywood baseball ending. In fact, the baseball part of the movie ends very bleakly. Ultimately, this is why the film succeeds.
The movie ends with Beane turning down the Red Sox and a shitload of money to stay with the A’s. Again, I won’t give anything away, but this scene absolutely drives home the human element of baseball people in a masterful fashion. There is no weepy sentiment and baseball romanticism is squarely kicked in the nuts; just real human emotions. Forget the stats, forget the scouts, forget the big money teams; baseball is human. The final scenes are so bare they are almost anti-climatic. Despite that, the audience broke out into applause as the screen faded to black (no one claps at movies in Southern California) — a testament to the power of the scene and the overall movie.