Friday, September 23, 2011

Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011) -- C-

Moneyball belongs to a growing species of filmmaking that can only be called anti-cinema, made by pedantic, talentless hacks, utilizing genre not for useful or passionate allegory, but simply an act of obfuscatory solipsism, where the ironically temperate form enables blithely self-absorbed content. Chief offender here is Bennett Miller, following up his equally empty Capote with something even less enticing: a baseball movie that hates baseball movies. Notoriously literal and tactile screenwriters Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin provide Bennett with a proper amount of smug for him to unveil his one-dimensional insights and gratingly dry aesthetic taste, insisting not upon an inversion of genre (the proper critical act), but a negation, subtracting archetype, but neglecting to replace said subtraction with any supplemental value. What manifests in lieu of this absence is casual detachment usually reserved for the likes of Steven Soderbergh (though he broke his creep streak with Contagion), epitomized no better than by Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), whom Bennett treats not with a degree of delineating investigation (getting beyond patriarchal crisis), but prissy existentialism, aligning past failure (masculine insufficiency) with present self-pity, a tired neo-liberal anxiety and one that strands the film's foundational aspirations, especially given Bennett's disinterest in dramatics of any sort. No big speeches, no love interest, no final game, no mentor-protege bonding - all well and good, but Bennett proves himself merely a hater, not an artist. He's unable to take his apparent disdain for normative formula and produce anything other than, well, his apparent disdain for normative formula. Billy Beane asks aloud late into the film: "How can you not be Romantic about baseball?" right before statistics wiz Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) shows him a scouting video with a blistering irony. "It's called a metaphor," says Brand. Beane smiles and says, "I know it's a metaphor." Bennett perpetually can't help himself, whether willfully seeping the life out of nearly every scene (he's a horrible director of actors) or relying on Sorkin's (presumably) fake-smart reflexive quips. Problem is, without a compelling proposition to reflect on, there's nothing but dead space, which Moneyball has in droves.

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