Review: ‘Moneyball’

Brad Pitt might not want to make plans Oscar weekend because I’m betting that he’ll be one of the 5 guys named for Best Actor.

Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller from a script by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Pitt plays Billy Beane, a former Major League Baseball player who is now the General Manager for the Oakland A’s. Yes, it’s a sports movie but you don’t have to like baseball or even know anything about it to really get into the heart of this film.

The film opens on October 15th, 2001 with the elimination game between the struggling A’s and the New York Yankees.

Cut to the A’s stadium; it’s empty and silent. Pitt sits in the stands alone, stressed and concerned as he listens to the game on a little portable radio.

Minutes later they’ll lose.

The story then starts with Beane now back at square one. A new season looms and his best players have defected for the Yankees and other big money teams. He begs the owner for more money saying if he doesn’t get it, we become “a farm system for the Yankees.”

There is no money so he and his band of baseball experts begin to assemble a team with the money they have. They talk about possible players and debate everything from how many hits they had last season to the looks of his current girlfriend or wife. If she’s not attractive, the player “lacks confidence.”   Sensing this is going nowhere, Beane flies to Cleveland in an attempt to strike a deal for players with the GM of the Indians. Nothing works out, but while there he spots a young guy named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand whispers in the ears of the executives and shakes his head at the potential offers Beane has laid out, nixing every idea.

On his way out, he confronts Brand. ‘Why do they listen to you? Who are you?,’ he asks. “I’m nobody,” says Brand. After a bit more grilling, Beane finds out that Brand is a numbers guy who bows down to a particular numbers theory on the stats of baseball and it’s players. “Baseball thinking is medieval,” he tells Beane.

Later, he calls Brand, grilling him more on his theories and finally let’s him on the big news: “Pack your bags Pete. I just bought you from the Cleveland Indians.”

Beane becomes such a disciple of this theory, that he starts to alienate the baseball minds that have in the game for years. They start to hate him. They don’t believe in him or Brand (“Google Boy”), yelling, “You’re discounting what scouts have been doing for 150 years!”

“Adapt or die.”

The film has incredible performances all through it. Good for Hill to take on this role. He’s still carrying his humor with him but it’s from a real place and it’s great to see that he can hold his own with Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman (Coach Art Howe), by the way, plays a great dick; a guy who is only out for himself and refuses to budge and listen to Beane. Howe knows he’ll be out of a job at the end of the season and no way will he sacrifice a win for this lame theory.

Another thing I loved, the war room that is filled with grizzled baseball vets. It was stock full of some really good character actors and character faces.

But let’s face it, this film belongs to Brad Pitt. He owns this movie. There’s a scene where Pitt and Hill are jockeying for new players in their run to win 20 games and hopefully, the pennant, that is a master class in acting. It’s fast, funny, tense and when it’s over you are almost as exhausted as they are.

I can’t say enough good things about this movie. Will people see it? Who knows. No one saw Drive and that was another really good movie. Hopefully Pitt’s star power will bring people out to the theater this weekend.

I hope so because this film is worth the time.

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