Last night, when I introduced a special screening of "Attack The Block" at the Arclight in Hollywood, they ended up showing two trailers in front of the film. One was that crazy "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" trailer, which plays as a total assault on the senses in the theater.
The other was the just released trailer for "Moneyball," the first glimpse we've gotten at the new movie by Bennett Miller, and I'm surprised by just how much I liked the trailer in general.
I've had some real questions about how they're going to turn the book into a movie, and I'm not sure how this subject matter translates to something that will travel around the world. One of the most fundamental questions is how you make a movie like this out of a story that doesn't have a Hollywood-approved happy ending.
Now, with this first look, many of those questions have been answered for me. First, it's obvious that the filmmakers do not feel particularly beholden to tell a documentary-style true story here. Instead, they're using the book and the story of Billy Beane as a jumping-off point. And considering the last film based on a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis was "The Blind Side," Sony has probably already cleared out a room at the studio where they can stack all the money they hope to earn. The difference is that "The Blind Side" told an easy story about race and faith and helping other people, while "Moneyball" is all about sabermetrics, a mathematical approach to putting together rosters on baseball teams. That's a hard subject to dramatize, which is probably why there's so much invention going on in the film.
Jonah Hill, for example, is playing a person who simply doesn't exist, and it seems like they've placed a lot of the heavy lifting on him as the guy who has to explain the way things work. I think Hill has huge potential beyond just being a comic performer, and this looks like a really nice use of him. Bennett Miller, who made such a splash with "Capote," stepped in to direct the film when Steven Soderbergh and Sony clashed on budget and script issues. It sounds to me like Soderbergh had something more experimental in mind, using the real players and other real-life figures as themselves in interviews that would be cut throughout the film. Instead, it looks like Miller has made something more conventional, and the trailer is definitely entertaining.
The craziest thing here is that anyone who is a fan of baseball films is probably a fan of "The Natural," and Brad Pitt, who has been dogged by comparisons to Robert Redford his whole career (exacerbated, no doubt, by his work in Redford's "A River Runs Through It"), seems to be aging into a near-clone of the iconic '70s star. It's sort of amazing at this point.
I'm curious to see how this one comes together. It will definitely be one of the big films this fall in terms of hype, and I'm hoping they'll show up at Toronto to show us the film there.
"Moneyball" opens September 23, 2011.