By Richard Hogg
‘I’d pay to watch them read out the phone book,’ is an expression I have heard banded about as friends sit in old man pubs discussing their favourite actors. But what about the writers? Their names may not spring to mind quite as easily, however, there are a handful whose appearance on the credits can usually guarantee an engaging two hours. DIablo Cody was one to watch after Juno; Charlie Kaufman is always worth a read or watch and I have yet to find a weak Coen brothers screenplay. However, since The West Wing and The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin has been at the top of the slush pile for me.
With Moneyball he has copied the formula from the best in the sports genre and written about the people rather than the sport – a good idea when the sport is the distinctly all-American national pastime of baseball. Bull Durham and Tin Cup (both solid Costner flicks) focused on romantic interests, however Moneyball delves into the running of a major sporting franchise. Brad Pitt plays it straight with a nuanced, no frills performance as Billy Beane, the innovative General Manager for the Oakland Athletics.
The film raises the issue of money in sport and asks how much do you have to spend to be a winning franchise. A lot of emphasis is placed on the relationship between Beane and the statistician Peter Brand, played brilliantly by Jonah Hill as they take on the old guard and try to build a team rather than a collection of overpaid stars. A mention should also go out to the always excellent Phillip Seymour Hoffman who plays the dour and downright obtrusive head coach Art Howe.
Sorkin takes his time getting to the ‘we’re a winning team now,’ section. Even then though things still go wrong as players are traded like cards on playground, managers argue over strategy and past glories and public failures come to the fore. I still have no real understanding about relief pitching, bunting or striking out but I was absorbed for the 2hr 20min running time as I got an insight into what goes on behind closed doors.