Movie Review: “Moneyball”
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt
Written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Bennett Miller
Forgive me for using a baseball metaphor, but “Moneyball” is a home run. No, I take that back; it’s a grand slam. Director Bennett Miller and legendary screenwriters Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) have crafted a smart, funny and flawlessly-acted masterpiece that should be a serious awards-contender at the end of the year.
Brad Pitt delivers the best performance of his career here as Billy Beane, the real-life general manager of the Oakland Athletics. In 2002, the A’s lost their three best players to much richer teams who could afford to give the players more money than the A’s could. In order to replace these players, Beane enlists the help of Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill in a flawless performance), who comes up with a radical idea for drafting great players: sabermetrics. Sabermetrics is the idea that the only important thing about a baseball player is his on-base percentage (the amount of times he gets on base). The greater the on-base percentage, Brand asserts, the more runs will be scored. So Beane sets out to draft a championship team with very little money.
Needless to say, Brand and Beane’s recruitment strategy upset a bunch of old-time scouts, who have an old-fashioned way of recruiting players that has been challenged by a colder, more statistic-based method. The duo especially butt-heads with the Oakland A’s field manager (played by an always-stellar Philip Seymour Hoffman), who spends most of the movie crossing his arms and shaking his head at the way Beane is running the team.
It’s hard to make an entertaining movie about baseball statistics. (Just like it’s hard to make a movie about the founding of Facebook.) But Sorkin and Zaillian – two of the best screenwriters working today – pull it off effortlessly. I’m a big fan of Sorkin (he also wrote The American President and The West Wing). He should write more movies. And Miller, who has only made one other feature-length film in his career, should make more films.
Hill is fantastic, but the film rightly belongs to Pitt. Whether he’s losing his temper after a devastating lost or listening to his daughter play the guitar and sing him a song in the record store, Pitt portrays this real-life character with a pitch-perfect mixture of charm and vulnerability. He stuck with the film when it was going through numerous problems and rewrites in pre-production, and his dedication shows in every scene of the film. Pitt will definitely be nominated for two Oscars: one for Best Actor, and another for producing a definite Best Picture contender.
The best thing about “Moneyball” – and there are a lot of great things about “Moneyball” – is the fact that the film has very little baseball in it. There are only about three or four scenes in the whole film that actually show people playing baseball. Like all great baseball films, “Moneyball” focuses more on story and characters than the actually game of baseball.
“Moneyball” is the rare film that you just don’t want to end. The first two-thirds of the film are great, but the final 30 minutes or so of the film are truly fantastic. My favorite scene of the film is the last baseball game that’s shown in the movie. I knew what the final score was, but I still was on the edge of my seat, and, when the movie faded to black, I was speechless. I won’t tell you why, but I will tell you this: see this movie. It’s a fantastic movie that will sneak up and floor you.
4 out of 4 stars.