“Moneyball” might not be considered an instant classic but it is without a doubt a terrific film with superb acting, great direction and a solid, albeit familiar story. In today’s film industry of unoriginal ideas and dreadful movies in general, that’s really all one could hope for.
“Moneyball” tells the story of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt, “The Tree of Life”), in his quest to finally win the last game of the World Series with the A’s by changing the system, and therefore changing the game. He recruits Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, “Cyrus”), an economics major with a passion for baseball. Beane hires Brand to help him draft the upcoming season’s team by using a computer analysis system as opposed to scouts. Based on statistics, the system has been named “moneyball,” and was deemed useless in a game that focuses on the “look” and worth of a player rather than their on-base percentage.
The film focuses largely on the statistics of the game, which may throw off some viewers who don’t follow baseball. But even those who may not follow the sport will not be discouraged. The movie remains accessible to anyone, whether they love baseball or just love movies. Brad Pitt always gives a stellar performance and “Moneyball” is no exception; he has to balance two sides of the man: the frustrated, almost angry or resentful side, and the loving and hopeful side of Billy Beane and does so well.
Beane’s dark side is displayed in quick bursts of anger that show Beane’s passion for what he does and the frustration that comes with it initially not working as planned. His softer side comes about mostly in scenes with his daughter; these are the most human and relatable. Pitt does an excellent job showing both of these sides, and transitions with ease.
Beane is written as a complicated person; not “complex,” but with enough dimensions to his character to make him interesting. His past failure to live up to everyone else’s expectations of him as a player, shown in quick flashbacks throughout the film, implies his resent of the game in a way. However, Beane deeply wants to change the game. As he states at a number of points throughout the film, if they don’t win the Series, it will all be for nothing.
Brand’s character isn’t as fleshed out as Beane. He largely serves one primary purpose throughout the film, to advise Beane in his draft choices. However, he’s just as passionate as Beane is about what they’ve set out to do which, Hill displays surprisingly well. Hill and Pitt share great chemistry on screen. And while Hill may not be Oscar-worthy here, he certainly steps outside his comfort zone. His character still brings humor to the table, but it’s in the context of a dramatic story and he’s acting with the likes of Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Pirate Radio”). Hill makes Brand a truly likeable person, and it ends up being an impressive turn for the actor.
Director Bennett Miller crafts a great looking film here. The montages displayed are truly well-made and he’s able to get across the emotion of some situations not only in the way he directs his actors but how he shoots them. Writers Stephen Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin have turned in an impressive adaptation of Michael Lewis’ non-fiction book. The script for “Moneyball” is intelligently written, inspiring and often humorous.
The film may seem more powerful if one doesn’t know the outcome of this true story, since the ending is not predictable. It’s not cliché in the idea that there always needs to be a happy ending. Baseball fans or not, movie-goers are sure to find “Moneyball” enjoyable.