Moneyball by Michael Lewis – Rating **** 1/2
Moneyball the film directed by Bennett Miller and written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Zorkin
I always enjoy having the option to read a book and then seeing that book come to life in film. This blog is full of examples of this. One that comes to mind is the book The Bounty and the film starring Mel Gibson, though the two are not connected. My preference is to first read the book and then see the film. As a writer I’m always interested in the choices other writers make in trying to tell the same story.
In this instance, I saw the film first. I totally enjoyed the film; so much so that I decided to listen to the audio version of Michael Lewis’s book on a recent cross country drive. Good nonfiction stories are hard to come by. Michael Lewis knows a good story when he sees one. In this case, he saw a story where no one else did. Good for him.
I vaguely remember watching the Oakland Athletics during their record breaking win streak. I vaguely remember hearing commentators talking about how they were able to accomplish so much with so little. But I definitely didn’t see a best selling book and movie while it was happening. But Michael Lewis sure did. And this is the same guy who came across the story that led to the book and Movie The Blind Side.
Since I saw the movie first, I’ll start with that. I thought it was one of the best movies I saw this year. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were great. I was fully engaged from start to finish. I don’t think it’s a Best Picture candidate, but as a whole it was entertaining. My only problem with the film was how the writers decided to give Jonah Hill’s character full credit for the idea of using statistics as a better gauge of choosing players over more traditional methods. Since I hadn’t read the book, I assumed that’s how it played out in the book. It wasn’t until after I listened to the audio version that I learned that Jonah Hill’s character, Peter Brand, was more of an amalgamation than a real person and that the real Billy Beane was a lot more involved in the whole statistics angle than what the film depicted.
Other than that one shift away from the book, the screenwriters, Steven Zaillian and Aaron Zorkin, did a good job of adapting the book. The climax in the film, the winning streak, was almost a side note in the book.
Had I read or listened to the book first, I’m not sure I would have saw the potential for a movie. The book is entertaining and full of interesting anecdotes, but it isn’t exactly a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. The Oakland A’s didn’t win a World Series. But everyone likes an underdog story. And the story of how a small market team with a small budget was able to compete against teams with three and four times the budget makes for a compelling story.
It usually takes me a couple of weeks to read a book. I listened to the audio version over three days of driving. Since I had seen the movie only a few days before, it made the audio version even more interesting.