THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE SCENES – #7
Moneyball was based on a book by Michael Lewis about the philosophy the Oakland A’s employed in building a Major League baseball team. It delved into statistics and, though it also dealt with the human beings associated with the baseball decisions, ultimately, it was a book about a specific statistical system used to help a baseball team win games. That is was turned into such a successful and emotional movie remains a genuine triumph brought to us by screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian and director Bennett Miller. Many elements were integral in turning a book that seemed very uncinematic into something that both embraces and eschews sports movie cliches. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill lead a stellar cast who hold to the idea that realism is always, conclusively, a better choice than melodrama. The cinematography, by Christopher Nolan crony Wally Pfister, is subtle and often breathtaking. Mychael Danna’s score resists sports movie cliches in adding emotion and ambience. Bennett Miller, as shown to an even greater degree in Foxcatcher, trusts the audience’s intelligence and focuses less on making things blockbuster-obvious and more on keeping things cinematically and thematically rich.
However, even with all of those elements working in perfect tandem, the movie would not soar as high as it does without its gorgeous closing scenes. (Spoilers are ahead for those who haven’t seen the movie and would like to go in with absolutely no prior information.) As the movie winds down, Pitt’s Billy Beane has been offered an incredible amount of money to leave the A’s and join the Boston Red Sox as their GM. After a conversation with Hill’s Peter Brand, Billy gets into his car with his decision still up in the air. As he drives, he puts in a CD that his daughter made for him. He had asked her to sing for him, but she was a little too shy, so she recorded a song for him and gave it to him on CD. (The song is “The Show” by Lenka.) Though subtitles that close the movie give us the specific details on Billy’s eventual decision, this final scene is so good that no other explanation was really needed. The handheld camera work, with its zooms and shifting focus, along with Pitt’s acting, and Kerris Dorsey’s singing, close the film with such moving subtlety that I am getting choked up just thinking about it right now. It speaks volumes thematically and drives home an important point so much more clearly than most sports movies could: it’s never truly about sports; it’s about something more than that. I can only recall a handful of movies where the closing scene is more important than it is in Moneyball. Most of those movies are movies with some sort of big “twist” (The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects). Here, the quiet emotion on Billy Beane’s face combined with the innocence of his daughter’s voice mean more than the swelling music that concludes countless romantic comedies. It is one of my very favorite scenes to watch over and over again and one that demands that I remember what is important in life.