Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Here's a nice little film that crept under the wire last year. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the manager of a going-nowhere baseball team. We open as he tries to negotiate new contracts for next season and discovers that the big teams are buying all his best players. Or are they?

As his coaching staff implore him to hire charismatic under-achievers he encounters, on a visit to another club, a statistician, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a recent economics graduate, who has to get someone else to speak for him because when he speaks for himself he is ignored.

Rather than hiring players Beane hires the statistician and discovers soon that many players with good averages are over-looked because they have family problems, appearance issues, are too old or have a penchant for night-clubs, drugs and alcohol.

The team he assembles, against the will of his coaching staff, bombs to begin with, but mainly because his chief coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour-Hoffman being his usual brilliant gruff) plays them out of position. Beane sells the preferred players until Howe has no choice. Then the winning streak starts.

It's a film about statistics over intuition and its brilliance is in the dialogue not the sport (which is brief, done in clips and uses much newsreel footage). And a peek behind the scenes at the reality of what it is to be traded without a chance to respond. No surprise that Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing; The Social Network) turned out to be a writer.

Maths and sport - almost perfect entertainment.

No comments: