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'Moneyball' – stunning, perennially topical

Saturday - Feb 25, 2012, 12:56pm (GMT+5.5)
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Film: "Moneyball"; Cast: Brad Pitt, Johan Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman; Director: Bennett Miller, Rating: ****1/2
The irony of most team sports is that individual star players become bigger than both the team and the game. With the current controversy of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, who refuse  to retire despite having neither age nor performance on their sides, the timing for "MoneyBall" release in India is perfect.

Yet, to the credit of writer Aaron Sorkin, who previously gave us "The Social Network", he ensures this is not just a sports film. By making sports a metaphor for life, it becomes one of the  best sports films ever made and a very worthy contender for multiple Oscars.

After a dismal show by his team, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the baseball team Oakland A, tries to find a winning team.

But his budget is too small to take expensive star players. With the help of a young statistics nerd (Johan Hill), he decides to turn conventional baseball wisdom upside down to opposition  from everyone -- till, in the end, his formula works and everyone stands up to take notice of this man, who changes the way the game is played, forever.

Like a promotional line from this film based on a true story, it is indeed "a movie for anybody who has ever dreamt of taking on the system" and changing it. Though it is a film about a sport, it  has so many layers, multiple analogies, unsaid things that the film becomes a delicious ride for the discerning movie viewer.

The stunning screenplay delves into such layers that what is visible is just the teaser for what really is in it, which a viewer has to decipher. Like the tip of an iceberg, "Moneyball", using the  minimum words, speaks out the maximum.

After the extremely witty but dialogue-heavy, straightforward and gimmicky (in terms of script) "The Social Network", Sorkin shows what he is really capable of.

"Moneyball" is also about each of our disabilities. We are all disabled in someway or the other. And the world makes us much more disabled by looking at and harping at what we cannot do,  instead of seeing us for what we can.

It's like a guy in a wheelchair. We don't see what that guy could do. He might be the greatest writer in the world, or like Stephen Hawkins, the greatest living scientist. But we judge him by his  wheelchair and blurred speech.

Hence when Beane refuses these conventions of 'success' and instead takes on the 'weaker’ player and concentrates on what these players 'can' do, he breaks the cliché and prejudice  against the also-played players in any game, and thus against all of us.

The story thus becomes a metaphor for a true and successful society which can achieve its potential only when we see in each one what he or she can do, instead of harping on what they can’t. Like Einstein tells us, let us not judge a fish on his ability to climb a tree. Society, like most games, is also a team sport.

It is one of the greatest sports film because it puts the spotlight back on 'team' in a team sport. It is one of the most disgusting spectres of life to see individual players in a game given  over-importance, while others are grossly neglected. By removing stars from the game, like Beane does, much of the dignity of a game can be restored. An idea whose time has come for  cricket as well.

By Satyen K. Bordoloi


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