Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by Bennett Miller
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Based on a true story and taken from the Michael Lewis novel of the same name, Moneyball follows former baseball player turned Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) as he attempts to figure out how to beat teams with four times his operating budget. When he meets Peter Brand (who is loosely based on Beane’s former assistant GM Paul DePodesta, he starts to employ Brand’s formulas to his recruiting in order to put together a team that doesn’t make much sense to anyone other than the two of them, but somehow begins to win games in spite of everyone’s disbelief.
I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest baseball fan in the world. I never played as a kid and while I get excited to go to games now I tend to lose interest rapidly once sitting in the stands. But baseball movies are a different animal. Most of them follow a simple formula and end up far more entertaining than the actual thing. Moneyball follows that formula to a point, but becomes more interesting in spite of it. Rather than focusing on the team in trouble that comes out on top in the end, it focuses on the actual business behind the sport and how numbers can compete with heart. For some this might sound tedious, but I was captivated.
Putting the film on first base is the writing. Writing this good doesn’t usually happen in a baseball film. The dialog is quick and full of quirks and surprises. And just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, it takes you in a new direction.
Getting the movie to second is the fast-paced and skilled direction of Bennet Miller (Capote). The film is so well put together on his end that sometimes you actually feel like you are watching the real story take place rather than a representation.
Strike one comes from some of the drama. Sometimes the perceived need for conflict in a scene acts against it and a few of the scenes and actions of the characters come off as contrived or overreaching. I’m sure there was much tension in the real-life story, but a film like this doesn’t need a pronounced villain just because it might lack one.
Third base is accomplished by it’s authentic look and feel. While I’m not certain that the actors were actually taken from the baseball biz, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. The conversations felt organic which usually stems from people that know what they are actually talking about.
Strike two comes from the on the field action which looks too much like a low-budgeted baseball movie. I’m much more interested in what goes on off the field and the playing of the sport distracts from that throughout.
And finally, bringing in the three runners with a grand slam to win the game is Brad Pitt. While not as moving as his turn earlier this year in Tree of Life, Pitt gets into this character and is spot-on perfect for the role. You may not like him and his actions all of the time, but you can’t take your eyes off of him. He plays the flawed GM like no other actor could and proves that when you get him in the right role he can be electrifying. B+