Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin (Screenplay), Michael Lewis, (Book)
Director: Bennett Miller
Stars: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Runtime: 133 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
Unlike many sports movies where the “Protagonist Team” finishes the season as champions or with a heart wrenching loss in the championship game, the 2001 Oakland A’s that we follow in Moneyball lose to “Everyday Eddie Guardado” and the Minnesota Twins very unceremoniously in the ALDS. (Ok, I only know and care about that last bit of sports information because I am from Minnesota) The season that the A’s had fell short of the World Series but that defiantly did not stop Steven Zaillian (Shindler’s List, Gangs of New York), Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, A Few Good Men) and company from coming up short in this very memorable, dramatic and accurate Sports Flick!
Brad Pitt plays Billie Beane, the General Manager of the Small Market Oakland A’s baseball team who is coming off a winning season with 3 superstars that will be gone by opening day the next season. The A’s do not have the money or care to find the money to pay the big time players in the “salary cap-less” MLB. He is facing a losing season with players that no one has ever heard of and decides he has to do something to change the way that a team scouts, builds and plays in the league so that the small fish in the big sea can stay afloat. On a trip to Cleveland to negotiate some trades with an old friend he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who is a Yale grad has figured out a system using statistics, charts, proofs and economics to compile a team that can win for a fraction of the cost.
Beane learns theses strategies, adopts them as his own, and alongside Brand puts together the best team of no names that MLB has ever seen in its 140 years of existence.
The movie does not require any baseball knowledge; Zaillian and Sorkin hold your hand and lead you around anything confusing like a father taking his son to his first baseball game.
The movie is filled out by a nice cast and other subplots. The story with the obviously old and old school ways of the acting scouts for the A’s complaining and fighting the new school of thought depicts the changing times. The battle between the Beane and the Manager, played curmudgeonly by the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also enjoyable and there is also a very “Sorkin-esque” and touching story arc involving Beane and his daughter.
Brad Pitt carries the movie with ease, not that there was any doubt. He flawlessly steps into the personality of the re-inspired General Manager. More than just a cool celebrity superstar, I have really enjoyed the talent he brings to the table in his most recent efforts. (Even though the Tree of Life did nothing for me) Although he very well may get nominated and perhaps win his first academy award for this role, I don’t believe this is the movie where he should be awarded that honor. He nails it but the part doesn’t challenge him enough. Jonah Hill also gives his final performance in his former generously proportioned body with great comedic timing and superb dramatic chops!
Moneyball doesn’t go down as one of my favorite sports movies ever but it is a great movie with a very engaging underdog storyline, written, directed, and acted brilliantly.