It would be easy, as a fan of the Oakland Athletics, to lambast Bennet Miller’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’s book, "Moneyball," about the 2002 A’s. I do feel the need to do so, but I will be brief—the A’s had the Most Valuable Player (Miguel Tejada) and the Cy Young (Barry Zito) that year, along with major stars like Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Billy Koch. None of these players are present in the film aside from, in the case perhaps of Chavez and Hudson, being implied or alluded to.
Additionally, the substitution of the fictional Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) for the real-life Paul DePodesta is frustrating, though apparently unavoidable due to conflicts with DePodesta over his portrayal. It should also be noted that the film indicates that the A’s had the league’s lowest payroll, which is simply false. There are, of course, many other inaccuracies and inconsistencies—to throw in one more, Beane claims in the book not to care about the playoffs, but in the film he is irate over the team’s loss.
The movie itself, however, is a work of art. Making a film of Lewis’s book seemed like a joke of an idea when it was first announced, and it is no surprise that the script went through several rewrites and directors. Yet somehow, out of it all, Miller creates an unconventional but thoroughly engaging movie by mixing character study (of Brad Pitt’s protagonist, general manager Billy Beane), comedy, live game footage, and (the weakest portion) reenacted, dramatized baseball action.
The only sin “Moneyball” commits is taking too much onto its plate—two hours is not nearly long enough to satisfactorily wrap up all of the storylines: Beane’s personal and professional struggles; the team’s early trials and tribulations, rise to glory, and eventual downfall (permanent, for the record—another detail that should have been mentioned in the film is the A’s frustrating mediocrity); the career crises and renaissances of the players the film focuses on, Scott Hatteberg and David Justice.
What subplots Miller (and his screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who reworked Steve Zaillian’s screenplay) does fail to tie up are an afterthought. The central drama—the team’s 20-game win streak and Beane’s fight to prove himself (and Brand) to the world, plus a smaller and somewhat touching bit about Beane’s relationship with his daughter (damn those child actors)—holds us in well enough. The greatest feat is simply in bringing a memorable and enjoyable sports story to life.