Moneyball, the movie, is an absolute mess of a film, the type of muddled end product you’d expect from a project that took several years and went through multiple writers and directors. Even good performances by a cast of big names and some clever makeup work couldn’t save this movie, and if I hadn’t been planning to review it, I would have walked out.

The movie failed first and foremost for me as a movie, not just as a baseball movie. (I’ll get to the baseball parts later.) The general plot here is that the A’s lose their 2001 ALDS to the Yankees and are about to lose three major players to free agency, so Billy Beane goes hunting for a new way of doing business. He runs into a stats geek working in Cleveland’s front office named Peter Brand, hires him, and Brand brings the sabermetric philosophy that we now associate with the early 2000s Oakland teams. This causes friction with Oakland’s scouts, who are all idiots, and Art Howe, who was a stubborn idiot (this is the movie, not my opinion), and Billy might even lose his job until the A’s get hot and win 20 games in a row. Meanwhile, we are to believe that this is all so Billy can purge the personal demons created by the failure of his playing career.

Billy is the only fully realized character in the entire movie, and even at that his disparate pieces don’t tie all that well together. Peter Brand, a.k.a. Paul Antipodesta, is a mousy number cruncher who looks like the lay viewer would expect a stat geek to look – unathletic, dressed in dull collared shirts and ties, intimidated by the players, with no complexity to the character. Howe is nothing but a holier than thou obstacle for Beane whose entire motivation for his stubbornness is his desire for a contract extension – a hopelessly tired plot device that makes for a one-dimensional character. Even Casey, Billy’s daughter, who is shoehorned into this weird plot strand about him possibly losing his job, is nothing more than the plot strand requires her to be.

The lack of multi-dimensional characters is exacerbated by the languid, aimless plot and stop-and-start pacing. The film mopes through Opening Day and the beginning of the A’s season, races through their midyear turnaround, then jumps through most of the winning streak until the twentieth victory, at which point we’re handed slow motion views of the A’s blowing an 11-0 lead … and of Art Howe thinking, with no sound at all. Even the paces of conversations are strange and often forced; one of the “action” scenes, if I could call it that, involves watching Billy juggle three GMs (Shapiro, Phillips, and Sabean) to try to acquire Ricardo Rincon. All three GMs come off as stooges, but more importantly, it’s boring as hell to watch anyone, even Brad Pitt, talk on the phone.

Pitt is very good with the stilted material he’s given and clearly made an effort to look and act the part, from his hair to his tone of voice to his facial expressions. He’s also frequently eating or drinking, which he seems to do in every movie in which he appears. Jonah Hill, as Peter Brand, is very good when he can use his character’s dry, monotonous delivery for comedic effect, drawing laughs from lines that aren’t inherently funny because his timing is so good. Chris Pratt has several funny moments as Scott Hatteberg, very recognizable if youve seen his work as Andy on Parks and Recreation, although he really only has two scenes of any significance in this movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman was wasted as Howe, unfortunately, playing a one-note character who would like you to know he doesn’t care what you have to say about baseball. Robin Wright Penn is also wasted as Beane’s ex-wife who is apparently married to a closeted gay man.

I could have tolerated a lot of flaws if Moneyball had just given me a good baseball movie, with some real tension to it, or perhaps a strong character study of Billy Beane. But the film provides neither, and I spent most of the movie wondering what was really on the line here. The A’s don’t win a playoff series in 2002, so the script can’t set that up as a goal or use the playoffs as a climax. Beane took a $39 million team to the playoffs the year before; he wasn’t going to be fired in May for taking a few risks that his owner more or less told him to take (and if he had been fired, he would have been hired by someone else in a heartbeat, despite the character’s later claim to the contrary). His daughter is worried about him because she doesn’t see the big picture, but neither she nor her father is in any real jeopardy at any point in the film. We’re not playing for anything here.

Then there’s the baseball stuff, which is not good. For starters, the lampooning of scouts, which draws from the book, isn’t any more welcome on screen (where some of the scouts are played by actual scouts) than it was on the page; they are set up as dim-witted bowling pins for Beane and Brand to knock down with their spreadsheets. It’s cheap writing, and unfair to the real people being depicted. Current Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota also gets murdered in a drive-by line that depicts him as a clueless intern given the head scouting role after Beane fires Grady Fuson in April after a clubhouse argument (that never really happened). I’ll confess to laughing at the scout referring to “this Bill James bullshit,” although the A’s bought into that bullshit years before the film claims they did – and, in fact, hired Paul Depodesta three years before the movie-A’s hired Brand. (In the film, Fuson refers to Brand as “Google boy,” a term applied to Depodesta by Luddite beat writers in LA three years later.)

The film also relies on some pretty gross misrepresentations or oversimplifications of the business. The idea of a GM getting on a plane and flying two thirds of the way across the country to meet another GM to discuss a trade for a left-handed reliever is so absurd that it should set off alarm bells in even the casual fan. Do you really think that GMs only talk trades in person? That they fly to meet each other for tete-a-tetes before consummating any deal? Similarly, teams don’t sign injured players to guaranteed contracts by flying out to their houses (on Christmas Eve, apparently) without having them go through physicals.

I wasn’t as concerned with the script having Beane trade Carlos Pena to Detroit for a reliever and some money (as opposed to the actual three-team, seven-player deal including Jeff Weaver and Jeremy Bonderman) as I was with seeing Pena, an intelligent, gregarious person, depicted as a sullen Latino player. I also find it hard to believe Beane would ever say he didn’t care about pitchers’ platoon splits. And the film’s emphasis on Beane not making it as a player seems to point to questions about his makeup, especially his confidence, which hardly ties into a film about how makeup is overrated.

If you do end up seeing the film, and I imagine most of you will, there is one scene towards the end that stood out for me as incredibly spot on, so much so that it didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film. Beane is sitting in what was then called the .406 club at Fenway Park with John Henry, who is about to offer him a record-breaking deal to become the Red Sox’ new GM. Henry expounds on how Beane’s method of doing things is going to sweep through the industry, and how critics within the game weren’t just trying to protect the game, but were expressing their own fears about their livelihoods. That speech applies just as well to any industry undergoing the kind of creative destruction ushered in by Bill James, Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane. Remember that when you see the next written attack on “stat geeks” who are ruining the game along with a defense of RBIs or pitcher wins.

If you haven’t already done so, go read the book before thinking about seeing this movie, and maybe go watch Brad Pitt steal every scene he’s in in Snatch instead.


  1. Hi Keith,

    Finally saw the movie. As a baseball fan of many years, and a part-time cinephile, I liked the movie quite a bit. However when I read your reviews, I agree with many of your points you are making. (No other characters given depth, not enough tension and etc)

    I thought about the movie a little more and realized what Moneyball (the film) is really about. It’s not about sports, not even about baseball, it’s about Billy Beane. The Billy Beane portrayed in the movie is a former Golden Boy who failed. He is a man who hates to fail, the movie is about him trying to find redemption and want to win the last game of the season to proof something to himself. It’s a character study masquerading as a baseball movie.

    I have seen many baseball movies and some of them are great like Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Moneyball is never interested in making that kind of movie, it’s a portrayal of a man who desperately want to proof to the world, he isn’t a failure.

  2. Hi KLaw,

    Thanks for the review. I read it earlier this week and saw the film last night, and many of the points that you brought up here stood out as I was watching. I’m not sure yet what I think/thought of it; I definitely didn’t have a visceral reaction like you did, but the flaws you noted shouldn’t be discounted.

    I am interested in the fact that your account is so wildly off from the accounts of professional critics. And not just some of them; this film is in the ~95% approval range (97% from top critics) over at rotten tomatoes, and the reviews are generally not referencing the flaws or excusing them in a perfunctory manner. Why do you think this is?

    I agree with your sentiments that ad hominem attacks re: your thoughts on scouting or accusations that you can’t separate your career from your opinion on a movie are pretty weak. Any explanation that involves “oh, he just thinks that because of his job” is unfailingly incomplete, not to mention somewhat insulting. But I also think a claim to be able to completely remove oneself from one’s biases (meow) is pretty facetious, too. So – what is it about your approach to film-watching and your aesthetic sense (or however you want to frame it) that puts you so strikingly at odds with the vast majority of critics w/r/t Moneyball?


  3. I read very few reviews, so I can’t tell you why so many critics are ignoring this film’s fairly obvious, objective flaws. That’s probably between them and their editors, ultimately.

    I’m not sure I could really articulate what makes a film great, but I am pretty certain that I know what makes a film bad. This film flopped in three critical areas: plot (both narrative greed and overall pacing), dialogue (inconsistent), and character development (one character of more than two dimensions). You can’t whiff on all three and still be a good serious movie.

  4. Fair enough – I still find it very strange that someone like Roger Ebert, who has written scads of scathing reviews of flawed movies, gave this objectively bad movie four stars. Between that and the overwhelming consensus that this is a “good serious movie,” I don’t think “objective flaws” is an apt term. Or at least the flaws do not objectively do the damage that you feel. Something about the film, at least for the vast majority of paid film-evaluation experts, compensates for and/or redeems the flaws you cite.

    Don’t get me wrong; I think you are making some very legitimate criticisms of the film. (For one among many, Beane’s “be a leader” scene with David Justice felt pointless and fizzled out of the movie as quickly as it was introduced). But when you categorize something as a wreck of a movie and the rest of the movie-reviewing world is giving positive reviews, it seems that either the entirety of them is missing something or you are. And film critics can definitely be idiots en masse, but in this case I think it’s worth contemplating whether 1, there actually is something redeeming about this film, and 2, the fact that this redeeming quality isn’t striking you as such is due to your subjective aesthetic preferences, which may or may not have something to do with your line of work and experience in baseball. Worth pondering?

    In rereading the review, one area where your knowledge of baseball is creeping in is the claim that the film lacks tension:

    “Beane took a $39 million team to the playoffs the year before; he wasn’t going to be fired in May for taking a few risks that his owner more or less told him to take (and if he had been fired, he would have been hired by someone else in a heartbeat, despite the character’s later claim to the contrary).”

    I’d offer that he wasn’t just “taking risks;” he was flouting convention in a brash way. And in the universe of the film, the one less concerned about baseball verisimilitude, Beane’s reputation, job, etc., were on the line because he was doing something seemingly insane. That may not be accurate, but I think that’ one element that didn’t ring true for you but carried the film for a lot of critics.

  5. Nate: what evidence does the film give you that Beane’s job is in any jeopardy? The word of his 12-year-old daughter, based on things she read on the Internet. Maybe, if you stretch, some comments on talk radio by shock jocks. Even a non-fan has to recognize those as specious reasons to believe someone will be fired. To steal and twist a metaphor from Chekhov, don’t threaten to fire a gun that you can’t even prove exists. Instead, show me the owner threatening to fire him, or Beane himself agonizing in private conversations over the potential end of his career. We got about five percent of that. And if professional critics are overlooking such a major plot hole, again, your complaint is with them.

  6. I saw the film last night and I loved the film. I didn’t like how scouts were portrayed as they were shown to be bumbling idiots, but I would argue that’s how scouts were portrayed in the book. I also agree Hoffman was wasted in this film. His character was one dimensional and didn’t utilize Hoffman’s great acting ability.

    I do differ with you on a few points:
    1) Beane’s job was in jeopardy. This was established in two scenes. The first scene was in a scene where Beane tells Peter Brand that if this fails Brand will be fine because he has a college degree at Yale with an impressive first job while he (Beane) is 44 year old with only a high school diploma. The other scene is where Beane and Brand are meeting with Steve Schott explaining why the team is in last place and how the team will rebound. While this is not spoken, Schott gives them a look that he is not pleased with how things are going.

    2) I’m not a fan of Jonah Hill at all; especially after seeing him in Cyrus (please do not watch it; it’s awful), but I think his character did have depth and his comedic timing was spot on. In terms of his dress attire, I dressed like that with my first job out of college. Dressing like that wasn’t mandatory, but I felt I had dress professional to be taken more seriously in the office.

    3) I agree that GMs do not fly out across the country to talk about a trade for lefty reliver. That said, having that scene was necessary in order to introduce Brand’s character. Also the scene plants a seed for the Ricardo Rincon plot line later on in the film.

    What annoyed me the most were product placements. I hate when films shamelessly have them, but I realize sometimes you need to have them in order to get money to make the movie.

    While there were some inaccuracies: the Pena trade and flying to a players home with a contract. I think those inaccuracies are a result of keeping the plot going (Pena trade) and to develop the Hatteberg character.

    There were a lot of little details the film got right. For example, the microphone the reporter used when they interviewed players was the actual TV station that covered the A’s at the time. The team announcers in the film were all accurate too (it especially great to hear the late Bill King’s voice again).

    I think if you look at what is only on the screen you’ll see a 70 grade movie as I did.

  7. If you think that’s a 70, I’m curious how many 80s you’d hand out. A 70 would put it among the top 200 or so movies of all time, which kind of makes me want to dismiss everything you wrote above it because I can’t imagine you’ve seen many movies.

    Hill’s attire wasn’t professional – it was dated and nerdy, like his mom laid out his clothes for him. And the scenes that you claim put Beane’s job in jeopardy did nothing of the sort – in one scene he’s trying to comfort Brand, and in the other, you are imagining something that isn’t there. Schott is only concerned with money in the film’s portrayal anyway.

  8. I don’t have a *complaint* here – I’m interested in what is driving your experience of the film as to make it so disparate from others’ opinions, particularly those of professionals whose job it is to review films. I think to some people, failure is grounds for dismissal, and for a healthy portion of the movie, the A’s are decidedly failing and doing so via Beane’s attempt to buck tradition. And you can read the daughter’s fears based on “stuff she’s read on the internet” as unfounded, but you can also read Beane’s “don’t worry about it” as doth-protesting and trying to comfort his daughter with a white lie while the media is portending the way the wind blows. Maybe in reality the media has never played a part in the firing of a manager or GM, but it doesn’t seem insane (see Little comma Grady) that local public and media opinion could play a role in job security. There is pressure coming from the media, there’s pressure from the fact of failure, there’s pressure from a head scout who’s telling his GM to go eff himself and a manager who won’t listen to what Beane’s saying. No one’s explicitly stating “BB you’re failing!,” but the signs – hoever misinterpreted they are – are there.

    I *fundamentally* agree with you – the idea that Beane should be fired because of any of this is stupid, and the idea that he plausibly would have been fired after such a playoff season is a stretch at best. But both of these “facts” are based on the typical behavior of owners w/r/t their GM’s, and it certainly looks as though popular critics are not taking that realistic account of owner behavior into account. Critics are reading it as though something *is* on the line and that Beane’s actions are brave, and I almost think whether it’s real or in Beane’s head – as it seems to be – that conflict doesn’t need to realistic to be perceived by a non-expert public. You’re arguing it’s not sufficintly established, so I think your requirements for sufficient establsihment are the locus of the disparity.

    I will note, though, that you think Howe’s overt motivation for a contract is a cliched trope, but you think there needs to be an explicit threat of firing in order to concretize Beane’s motivation. “Win or you’re fired” seems just as trite as “give me a contract or I quit” to me. I think perhaps critics are taking the implied threat of job loss as real (perhaps based on their ignorance of the way baseball works) whereas you need an overt statement / threat to establish its reality. That seems to rely strongly on what is realistic in these circumstances and/or an aesthetic preference for explicit narrative exposition. That doesn’t necessarily strike me as right or wrong, just as a preference that you have that stems – perhaps to some small extent – in what you are reading as an unrealistic aspect of the movie. And your gripe is legit, but it shouldn’t surprise you that others sans your level of expertise are feeling a deeper conflict.

  9. I do not need an explicit threat of firing here, but any real indication that his job is in jeopardy. Anything. Hearsay out of a 12-year-old’s mouth doesn’t cut it. I actually had no problem with them changing facts to make a better story, but they needed to go much farther.

    One thing I do wonder about other reviews, having read very few of them, is whether they’re holding the film to a lower standard than they might hold a film about something other than sports, or other than baseball. I didn’t change my standard – I saw this between two Best Picture nominees and judged them all on the same scale using the same criteria.

  10. Well, given that we’ve thoroughly established that the critical cinema community has no idea what it’s doing, I don’t know if it really matters whether movies are Best Picture-nominated… 🙂

    (A complete side note would be whether a single set of criteria could really be applied across the board to every movie out there, independent of intent / content / style / genre etc. I’m guessing context plays too big of a role for that to ever be realistically pulled off, and besides, the idea that anyone’s watching Moneyball and, say, Schindler’s List with a consistent objective mindset is absurd to me).

    But sure, maybe sports movies get more leeway than they should, and maybe people are so shocked that this debacle of a production resulted in *anything* that they’re over-praising it. Definitely posible. I still think the claim that all of these critics are objectively wrong betrays more of a difference in values / expectations from the cinematic experience than one objective mind and 37 biased movie minds. Again, I largely agree with your review, I just default to a “what am I missing?” rather than a “what’s wrong with them?” stance.

  11. I’m not comparing myself to professional reviewers, though. I’m not a professional reviewer, I’m not trained as one (if such training exists), and I wouldn’t expect anyone to come here expecting that kind of review. (I don’t think I could ever be one, since I would refuse to see any of the “torture-porn” films that must appeal to the “future serial killer” demographic.) I lay out my criteria in just about every post on the subject and let readers discuss from there.

  12. I didn’t mean to imply that you were actively comparing yourself to pro-reviewers. I meant that both you and they are going after something in the vein of an objective evaluation of the film, and the objective realities you are describing (or evaluating) are way off from one another. It’s not your having a dissenting an opinion that is strange – that happens all of the time. The thing that is strange that is that there’s such a prominent consensus among the pro reviewers. So whether you actively compare yourself or not, the contrast is obvious, and your scathing review is inherently an anti-expert stance. So either they are all mis-evaluating it, you’re mis-evaluating it, or (most likely) you are using a disparate set of criteria from that of the typical professional movie reviewer.

    One stated difference in criteria is that you prefer a more explicit (or maybe a better term is “more firmly established”) threat of Chekov’s gun. The people I’ve spoken to about this part of the plot indicate that the mere fact of Oakland’s initial failure and their repeated appearance at the bottom of the standings – and that people do realistically get fired when their against-the-grain projects fail – was implied threat enough. The consensus of the pro-reviewers seems to be along these lines, too.

    For you it wasn’t, and I think speculation that this is because you’re keenly aware that a baseball GM’s job is not really on the line in those circumstances is not insane. It may not be the real cause, it’s probably *really* dumb to say that you’re just biased because of that baseball knowledge, and it may be more accurate to say that independent-of-baseball you have a different set of evaluative criteria that made you unwilling to tolerate the ambiguity of Beane’s professional situation as presented in the film. But it’s not crazy to see an opinion from a smart reviewer (if not a professional one), see that it differs wildly from the expert opinion, and wonder what is driving that opinion.

    I would personally ground the explanation in aesthetic preferences rather than something objective about the film – grounding it in the film against the opinions of the experts makes it seem like chances are you’re the one who’s grossly missing something. If the difference is grounded in your aesthetics, you can rely on the old “well, I just have better, more perfect aesthetic preferences than those populist critics.” And then we listen and read your work lovingly, not because you’re right or wrong, but because you’re better than them. 🙂

  13. Exactly! After college I didn’t own any nice clothes so I had to wear my father’s “nice clothes” the first few months at my job.

    I also agree Schott was primarily concerned with money, but Schott had to know for every win the A’s got was worth a certain dollar amount. If the scene was really about money, then the dialogue would have reflected the concern over money rather than the performance of the team.

    I believe you should always evaluate a movie based on what’s the screen. Stanley Kubrick’s movies used to be criticized for that all the time by critics for what wasn’t on the screen. Examples: Eyes Wide Shut: critics would criticize how there are no streets in New York like the ones in the film. Lolita, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange: the movies strayed too far away and/or were not faithful to the books. Barry Lyndon: critics expected the movie to be an epic war film but…screw it; Ryan O’Neal was going to ruin that movie not matter what. My point is I noticed some of the minor flaws you mentioned, but I evaluated the movie strictly what I saw on the screen. Those minor flaws were there to keep the plot moving and/or to quickly show the point the writer wanted to make.

    Lastly, I will also admit I have bias when I gave my 70 grade (insert cat sound). I have huge man crush on Bennett Miller (who also directed Capote). I think he’s an up-and-coming director who has the potential to legitimately be one of the top 20 directors of all time (I know, small sample size).

    Below are my 80 grade movies (in no particular order with the exception of Paths of Glory). I hope this will add more substance to my opinion. Actually, scratch that; I don’t know care what you or what anyone else thinks. I hope you and your readers take the time to see all of these incredible films.

    Paths of Glory
    Bringing Up Baby
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Pulp Fiction
    12 Angry Men (the original)
    The Killing
    The Seventh Seal
    Star Wars IV-V
    His Girl Friday
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Taxi Driver
    Synecdoche, New York
    Dark City
    Thin Red Line

  14. Keith,

    Love your writing, but I think your review of Moneyball totally misses the point. If you simply didn’t think it was a good movie, fine. Different strokes for different folks. However I feel like you are reviewing it as if it was meant to be a 100% accurate representation of the inner-workings of baseball. It wasn’t…its just a movie meant to entertain. Were you entertained by the movie or not?

  15. Vince: no, I wasn’t, and I’m not sure how you could make such a silly claim about my review unless you skipped the top half to get to the baseball parts. I was explicit about how I think this movie fails as just a movie.

  16. I enjoyed the movie, although it wasn’t particularly a knock my socks off movie. Pitt did a great job as did Jonah Hill. I’m a fan of the A’s and attended several of the games portrayed, including the 2002 deciding games of the ALDS, several of the streak games, and the 20th game won in the streak (I knew that Hatteberg’s hit was going into the bleachers right off the bat).

    There certainly were inaccuracies. They have Beane saying after the 2002 season that they were tired of losing game 5 two years in a row, but it was actually three in a row. The trade of Pena got the A’s Ted Lilly and two minor leaguers that the A’s wanted. The writers made the trade more dramatic as a way to force Art Howe to play Hatteberg at 1st base. What I remember about the deal was that Pena had a hot start to the season, cooled down other teams figured out he couldn’t hit an away pitch, and was then demoted to the minors. He was in the minors at the time he was traded.

    Also – Beane never got any revelation about OBP by meeting up with a new assistant. Sandy Alderson always wanted to apply new principles and had Beane interested. The book details how much Beane took to learning more about the philosophy of Bill James. A lot of his assistants from Riccardi and DePodesta did the number crunching, but it wasn’t a revelation to Beane.

    I know some important parts of the book were left out, like Beane’s man crush on Nick Swisher, his infatuation with trying to trade for Kevin Youklis (and Youklis was compensation to the A’s if Beane took the Boston GM job), and the entire 2002 draft. Also – Grady Fuson was never fired. He went to the Rangers, who offered him more money than the A’s.

  17. I hated the movie snatch

  18. This work have worked better as a piece of derivative fiction…based on MoneyBall but called….oh, um…DollarBall (playing on the Dollar Store). It was set up to be a kind of Flubber mixed with Slapshot.

    For one they never really delved into the personalities of their clubhouse of misfit toys…I mean they spent like boring minutes at that guy’s house but only a few seconds on the funnny stuff.

    Ultimately, it didn’t deliver because of…reality! In a movie you’re supposed to lose, then discover something, then win, then lose because of the bad guys, then finally win! They didn’t triumph!

    Also I question their premise…if moneyball only works when a guy who writes 14 million dollar checks can use it…then what is the point? And how do you explain the Yankees? And why does Moneyball almost always fail in post season? And wasn’t Johnny Damon who they mocked part of the winning Red Sox team?

  19. I realize this post is kind of old news Keith, but I feel like based on your review, the subject matter of the movie hits so close to home with you that I don’t think they could have made the movie in any way that didn’t disappoint you.

    Films can rarely, if ever, do a book (let alone the inner workings of baseball) justice. It’s just the constraints of 1) condensing all the ideas of a book into 2 or so hours worth of film and 2) putting a product on screen that has widespread appeal, especially to people who can’t be considered “intelligent” baseball fans.

  20. Pnoles: I don’t think you read, or understood, my review. I was simply not judging the film against the book (given how much I read, I certainly understand the limitations a two-hour film faces), nor was I remotely skewed by my relationship to the subject matter. I couldn’t have been clearer about this film’s issues with pacing or character development. I don’t know why you’d overlook that, and instead make your comment on this review about me.

  21. Pnoles: Re-reading my response now, it came off too harsh. What I am trying to say, or ask, is why you don’t buy my specific arguments against the film (specifically pacing and character development), and are disputing something I don’t think I said, or didn’t intend to say, about the differences between the book and the movie.

  22. I buy the character development part…..I was disappointed that they didn’t dig deeper into the backstories of Hatteberg / Bradford….it’s just a tradeoff that I felt they had to make (not sure what they could have feasibly cut out to make room for that). As for Peter Brand, I thought they did a decent job with Beane giving him pointers on how to explain to players that were getting demoted/traded, but I certainly wouldn’t argue that he was a “fully developed” character.

    With regards to pacing…it didn’t really bother me much at all while watching it. I can’t argue that it didn’t have a start-and-stop pace, which it did. But I do disagree with (what I felt you implied, didn’t explicitly state above) your opinion on the 11-0 game…..I really liked that. I thought they did a good job creating mounting tension building up to Hatteberg’s home run. You and I knew what was going to happen but people I was with / talked to were on the edge of their seats the entire time over whether the A’s would win their 20th.

    I think most of my problem with the review was “the baseball stuff” above….a lot of what they did may have been inconsistent with what actually happened, but it made for a good movie. Yeah, Beane flying to Cleveland to talk about Rincon was a bit ridiculous if you think about it (and I did while watching it), but it fit as a plot device to get Billy acquainted with Peter Brand and to give the viewers a “before” picture of Billy failing in a trade negotiation before everything he touched turned to gold later in the movie (obviously not consistent with when Beane started thinking the way he did in real life, but still for the movie it fit).

    I don’t have more time at the moment to keep digging but all in all, you make some valid points above but not anything to stop myself or a large percentage of others from thoroughly enjoying the film.

  23. I would hope I didn’t do that, pnoles. I don’t present any review here to try to prevent people from seeing or enjoying a film – or reading and enjoying a book. I think the restaurant reviews are the only things I write here that intend to steer people to or away from the subject matter; if I find a restaurant that isn’t good, I feel like I’m warning people not to make the mistake of eating there. But if you see Moneyball and like it, that’s great. More for us to debate if we meet up at a game sometime.

  24. Sheldon Steiner

    Keith, I previously defended you against accusations of bias in three separate posts. Yesterday, I finally got around to seeing the movie and although I would still defend you, I have to say you were extremely harsh. “A mess of a film” and “I would have walked out” are strong statements that didn’t fit the movie I saw (it’s certainly possible that we just have differing opinions, and no I am not going to provide any level of detail as to why I disagree with you in this post; I can if you specifically ask me to).

    Two questions:
    This may have been asked previously, but what movies have you walked out of before?
    Do you regret using such harsh wording?

  25. Enough has been said here already but there’s one point that baffles me: managers get fired for bs reasons–regardless of past winning seasons–all the time [see Martin, Billy; Little, Grady; Randolph, Willie]; World Series MVPs don’t get re-signed [see Knight, Ray; Matsui, Hideki; Renteria, Edgar], etc. etc. etc. so to state that Beane’s job could not be convincingly perceived as “on the line”, while he was failing with what many believed to be a controversial methodology at best, just b/c he’d made the playoffs the year before…well, that just boggles the mind.

  26. Kiko: You didn’t name any GMs who were fired in similar circumstances, and I think it’s fair to say GMs are not fired as cavalierly as managers are. But my criticism was not based in baseball knowledge, but within the universe of the film itself. The script does not sufficiently convince the viewer that Beane’s job is in trouble, or that he’d be some kind of industry outcast if he were fired.

  27. Keith: the conversation with Grady Fuson, in which Beane ends up firing him (Fuson predicting Beane’s imminent removal and becoming a baseball pariah); the constant naysaying and speculation in the media; the conversation with his daughter in which she states coming across the rumors of his possible firing; and finally, the various times Beane is seen worried and insecure about his methods while these are failing him; all of these set up the possibility that his job is on the line. Not enough?

  28. So, the word of someone Beane fired and his 12 year old daughter are strong evidence for you? I didn’t see the ‘constant naysaying and speculation’ you mention, and of course self doubt, while very real, is hardly evidence that someone is about to be fired. Your paraphrasing is far stronger than what was presented in the film, which, again, was not close to enough to convince me.

  29. As a baseball fan, i waited a while to see this movie and finally folded last night to a friend (who likes baseball) who swore I’d like the movie. It wasn’t good, and I’m not sure how anyone rated this movie higher than a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Most of what needs to be said about this movie has been said in this review or by others, but I have a few things to add.

    This movie attempted to be a story about Billy Beane, but I can’t remember one point in the movie where I cared about his character, his ability to be a father, or if he cared about anything else for that matter. Beane appeared to be someone who had nothing else in his life other than fleeting moments with his daughter and his job as a GM which apparently he needed someone else to do for him. The portrait we are given of Beane is that he’s a man who has ran out of ideas and has only baseball to hold onto.

    In comes Peter Brand, in a scene that I think is the weirdest in the movie. First Beane flies to Cleveland to discuss a reliever (which ruined any credibility the movie had built up beforehand) with apparently no ammo to fire at Shapiro and within 30 seconds it appears that Beane has no idea what he’s doing as a GM because he’s tossing out ideas that are barely considered by any of the Indian’s front office members. So Peter Brand, a special assistant, says one thing, about one player and Beane drops everything to have this 25 year old come direct him how he should manage the A’s organization. Are we to believe that Beane is so out of options that he hires some stranger from another office to come be his assistant GM and have all the answers to the questions that Beane cannot answer? Its ludicrous to even consider.

    Early in the movie the A’s owner says that Billy has this much money to work with an to try to build a winning ballclub. When the A’s don’t get off to a hot start (apparently because of Art Howe’s vendetta against Beane and the owners) the A’s owner starts questioning Beane’s decision and Howe decides that his GM is no longer his boss and will not listen to him at all. And there’s the impetus for the Pena trade. Then they start winning with Hatteberg (who has yet to prove he can field a ball at 1B). Oh by the way, Pena was traded in real life when the A’s were 49-37, not nearly in the straights that the movie pretends they are in.

    Scott Hatteberg, who appeared to be sitting on the bench all season now has the 1B position, just like Beane wanted. But wait, didn’t Hatteberg play 73 games before Pena was traded? Isn’t the reason Pena was traded was to get Hatteberg in the lineup? So we’re to believe that Beane needed Hatteberg (who had compiled 300 ABs by this point) in the lineup so badly that they traded Pena just to get him from the DH hole to 1B? Another plot device to cause tension between the GM and Manager only to prove that the GM was somehow right when the A’s finish the season successfully.

    I could go on and on but there really is no need. Factual inaccuracies aside the movie had terrible pace, no characters of value or of honor or of integrity. We get to the end and we learn only that Billy Beane doesn’t care about money, that everyone else tried to get in his way of winning, and that something nice came out of it, though no one can really figure out what.

    What a waste.

  30. just to add, pena had got sent down to AAA a month and a half before he was traded, when Hatteberg took over at 1st. So there’s that too.

  31. Keith: Who said anything about “strong evidence”? I’m saying those examples set up the implication that Beane’s job was in jeopardy. His experiment is failing and the baseball establishment (represented by Fuson), the baseball media (represented by the constant harangues by sportscasters on the radio, which you say you didn’t see/hear), his family (represented by his daughter) are all used to insinuate this. That in the real world a baseball GM would actually be fired under the circumstances Beane finds himself at the time is not a make or break point, and that people in jobs outside of baseball might respond to this implication, was probably the tintent of the filmmakers, especially since the movie was attempting to appeal to a wide swath of moviegoers. It’s not a documentary. It’s a fictionalized account, like every movie ever made form a book that isn’t a doc.

    Speaking of which…all those people complaining about minutiae: you dudes need to chill. Yes, creative liberties were taken. But guess what? Rare, if not non-existent, is the movie made from a book which has not strayed at least somewhat from the source material. Bottom line: I’m a fan of the game and enjoyed the movie. And while I am pretty knowledgeable when it comes to baseball trivia and related details, I’m not privy to the inner workings of front office dealings nor do I tend to remember particular trades that did not involve a player I found interesting or was of large significance to the game. So, are there inaccuracies in the movie? As I’ve since discovered, yes, there are quite a few. Did this info make me reassess my enjoyment of the movie? Not one bit.

  32. “I’m saying those examples set up the implication that Beane’s job was in jeopardy.”

    And I have said, above and in my response to you, that I found those examples insufficient, and thoroughly contrived. The producers needed Beane’s job to be in jeopardy to make the movie go, and in my lay opinion, they did not do so in a convincing manner. Your mileage apparently varies.

    The discussion of the minutiae is completely appropriate for a blog that, while not actually about baseball, is largely populated by dedicated baseball fans, including the author.

  33. Just saw the film, finally, for the first time and immediately thought of you. I wasn’t predisposed to agree or disagree with your comments about the film but I remember reading this review and hearing your thoughts on the podcast and being surprised at how contradictory you seemed to be in regards to every other review of this film. Everyone seems to love this movie. Even the elite film snobs at the Academy nominated it for best picture. When I finally sat down to watch it, I came in knowing that the critics rave about it but Keith Law found it boring, poorly structured, and insulting to the profession of baseball. I was eager to view it for myself and form my own opinion. After viewing the film (and re-reading this blog post), I must say that I agree with every word you wrote. As a movie, it drags with no real purpose and has no real solid climax (which the lead character even points out several times). The front office semantics screamed cartoonish to me even though I’ve never been involved in that world – it just didn’t feel… right. But I think the biggest thing that ruined the movie for me was that they paid attention to the wrong players. League MVP and Silver Slugger award winners Tejada and Chavez were barely mentioned while the unbelievable trio of Hudson/Zito/Mulder was blatantely ignored. How could you make a movie about the amazing 2002 A’s (which, since the climax of the movie appeared to be the 20 game streak, is what the movie wanted to do) without drawing attention to the biggest reasons for their success? I know you’ve said a lot of this before but I just wanted to thank you for your analysis. I wish I still had the podcast where you commented on it but it doesn’t look like it’s on the internet anymore….