Directed By: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill
Expectations, expectations are the key to success for any film. In terms of Brad Pitt’s movies, the expectations have been steadily increasing as he’s gone from a young heart-throb to an action star to an offbeat comedic talent. He’s really developed the complete package as an actor, and therefore is at the stage of his career where he’s been taking pitches for that Oscar “home run.” The Tree of Life, which I’ll admit I haven’t seen yet, had those expectations, and while it drew praise from some critics, many were just left confused by it. Therefore, Moneyball, the most recent story of a significant moment in sports, seemed like Pitt’s next chance. I’m not sold on the possibility of a Best Actor award, but the movie was damn good.
Moneyball centers around Billy Beane (Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Going against years of tradition, Beane starts to build his team based solely on computer-generated analysis in an effort to compete with clubs that have 4 times his budget. While growing pains follow and nearly every baseball mind guarantees failure, Beane eventually achieves something never done before, and fundamentally changes the game forever.
I have one thing to say, Aaron Sorkin. The wonderfully talented writer of The Social Network makes this movie a success. Pitt does give a great performance which I will get to, but this film is all about the writing. Whether you love the sport or loathe it, most can agree that baseball is the slowest of America’s 4 major sports. There is a lot of downtime, a lot of lineup changes, and a lot of 0-run innings. To make a serious movie about baseball (you know, the polar opposite of “Give him the heater”) is difficult in itself, let alone when it’s about the General Manager and therefore often separated from the events on the field. Yet even with all these challenges, Moneyball is absurdly interesting from start to finish. Sorkin’s screenplay plays off the “underdog changing the sport” mentality, similar to Glory Road, but adds a layer of depth you wouldn’t expect. Everyone, from Beane to the no-name players he recruits, is painted as a deep and conflicted character. It’s these small stories within the film itself that makes it appealing to those that don’t get a lot out of the baseball aspect.
Although the writing is the staple point of Moneyball, the acting is pretty impressive also. Robin Wright makes somewhat of a return playing Beane’s ex-wife, and while she doesn’t play a very significant part (her true return will be in the upcoming American version of Girl with a Dragon Tattoo), it is nice to see her back on the big screen. Jonah Hill also shows he can play more than a crude and drunk idiot, portraying Peter Brand, the Yale graduate that convinces Billy that baseball incorrectly rates its players. He is mostly overshadowed by Pitt, but his character is intelligent and contrasts the old scouting approach nicely. Lastly, there is Chris Pratt. Pratt plays a player by the name of Scott Hatteberg, a catcher who can no longer throw the ball due to an injury. Beane and Brand see Hatteberg as one of the most underrated players in baseball in terms of getting on base, so they recruit him to play first base. Although he has no idea how to play the position he accepts the job to support his family. Hatteberg’s difficulty with confidence and development as a player are one of the hidden gems in this film. Now that I’ve mentioned everyone else, I have to give Pitt his praise. He is really good in this movie. His character is unique, stubborn and persistent. I had heard some comments prior to seeing this film that Moneyball would be to Brad Pitt what The Blind Side was to Sandra Bullock, in other words that this would be his Oscar. I’m not quite sure if I agree with that, but we’ll see when the time comes.
Very good movie. Go out and see it. 8/10