Capote director Bennett Miller and West Wing/The Social Network scribe Aaron Sorkin join forces for this true story about the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, played by Mr. Brad Pitt. The movie begins and the A’s have just lost their biggest players, and it’s up to Beane to find solid replacements for the season. Beane used a tight budget to his advantage and reinvented baseball by using a statistical approach, recruiting players that have been overlooked by the richer teams but have the skill to score runs. With his younger partner Peter Brand, an Ivy League graduate played by Jonah Hill, the two challenged old-school conventions at the risk of losing their jobs and reputations.
Although I’m not a big baseball fan or a sports fan in general, I found Moneyball to be a captivating movie. It was like The Social Network of baseball movies. The film is not exactly the cheerful, win-the-game-at-the-last-second heartwarming sports flick filled with clichés that we expect from the genre; instead it’s a smart, adult look inside the world of baseball. The script is what makes this movie work so well; Sorkin’s style of clinical, witty “adult talk” is as interesting as ever. The strong cast also helps to beef up the film, with even small parts being memorable, such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Athletic’s manager and a 12 year old Kerris Dorsey, playing Pitt’s daughter. The great dialogue scenes between the characters are what drives the film, but the quiet moments were just as strong and poignant. If I have any complaints it’s just that I would’ve liked some more scenes with the actual players. There is a surprisingly subtle performance by Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt as the new first-baseman (very different from his role on Parks and Rec) – I just wish we had more scenes with him.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of baseball, I think Moneyball has something for everyone. Pitt has a notable performance that’s quiet, maybe not something that will earn him an Oscar nom, but satisfying. Jonah Hill is really stepping out of his usual comfort zone of comedy and pulls off a great dramatic performance as well. The story is great in general and made greater by the people behind the camera. It’s not the groan-inducing underdog story we’ve seen over and over, but an interesting character piece and a comment on how conventional ways of thinking can be changed.