Thanks to the banter between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and the incredible screenplay from Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball is an entertaining drama – even if you could care less about the sport of baseball.
Based on Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” and Stan Chervin’s story contribution, the big screen adaptation was directed by Bennett Miller (2005’s Capote) and sees Pitt and Hill joined by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Brent Jennings, Ken Medlock, Tammy Blanchard, Jack McGee, Vyto Ruginis, Nick Searcy, Glenn Morshower, Casey Bond and Nick Porrazzo.
The film opens with some quick info about the operating budgets for the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees as the two teams play for a chance to go to the World Series. The A’s not only lose the game, but three of their star players to teams that can offer them more money.
Saddled with an extremely small operating budget, A’s general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) is unsure how he is going to field a team that can give the franchise a chance to get to the World Series. A meeting with his talent scouts offers even less hope as the men are offering just more of the same kind of baseball player.
Beane heads to the Cleveland Indians to attempt to trade for some players and is introduced to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) – who just earned an economics degree at Yale and is working his first job ever at the Indians. Beane is impressed with Brand’s new idea for assessing players, and hires him to help rebuild the A’s team from the ground up.
Sorkin and company spend some time explaining the math and baseball behind Brand’s idea, but it isn’t really important to understand it all. Since I am not a baseball fan, I really couldn’t follow what the two actors were talking about, but was able to catch up as they started going after the players who could play rather than the ones that look good in a Nike commercial.
Of course, Beane’s new plan clashes with his support staff and the team’s manager Art Howe (Hoffman). Even after being repeatedly told to change the line-up, Howe insists on playing the players he wants rather than the ones Beane says will win. It doesn’t help that the team isn’t having the best of seasons.
After several losses, it is time to put up or shut up and Beane trades several of the team’s best players to force Howe to play the team the way Beane wants. The team starts winning and even goes on to set a new record for most consecutive wins.
Moneyball manages to rise above just being another film about the sport of baseball thanks to the chemistry of the cast. Pitt is in top form here and his natural charisma helps the Sorkin dialogue move. He also benefits from great banter with Hill, and the two actors are easily the best reason to watch the film.
Pitt (who is constantly eating something or throwing something in the film) also excels in the quieter scenes with his daughter and is completely believable in the role of a father trying to do his best.
The film does struggle a bit from time to time and I am not sure that all the flashback scenes were completely needed. The scenes help demonstrate why Beane didn’t like talent scouts and his own failing as a player, but tend to drag the story down from time to time.
I would have liked to have seen more scenes with Hoffman. He only appears a handful of times in the film, but is solid as Howe. Some of the film’s best scenes involved Pitt and Hoffman going toe-to-toe over how the club should be ran.
The Blu-ray comes with decent bonus material including deleted scenes; a look at the real Billy Beane and how he re-invented the game; there is a funny blooper where Pitt just can’t stop cracking up; a complete behind the scenes look at the making of the film; and how the book was adapted for the screen.
Since I am not a huge fan of baseball, I really didn’t except to enjoy Moneyball as much as I did. The film is easy to follow and the cast make it will worth taking the time to watch. I am not sure if it is Pitt’s best performance or even if it is Oscar worthy, but the film was entertaining.
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