For many, many years I, along with a lot of other baseball fans, whined about an ownership that didn’t spend the kind of money the New York Yankees were spending on the best players in baseball. As the 2001 season was coming to a close, the Oakland Athletics were faced with the reality that the teams three best players were going to leave the team via free agency. Billy Beane, the team’s General Manager, was tasked with putting together a competitive team without significantly increasing the team’s payroll. Moneyball, based on the bestselling novel Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game written by Michael Lewis, begins at the end of that 2001 baseball season; the end coming for the Athletics and their payroll of $33,810,750 in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees and their $109,791,893 payroll.
Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, in Director Bennett Miller’s film. Using a screenplay co-written by Oscar Winner Aaron Sorkin, Bennett turns what could have been strictly a baseball movie into the study of one man’s character and desire to put together a winning team. Pitt’s Beane is compelling as a baseball mind, realizing that in order to compete using the means he’s been given, he must approach the game from an altogether different perspective. Pitt delivers on all fronts as Beane; showing the human side of the game, such as when he goes out to offer a contract to a player that’s been injured. He also shows that torment that goes along with having to deal with ownership. Most importantly, he shows that sometimes change can make a difference. Jonah Hill, as Peter Brand, is the main cog in convincing Beane that the old way of scouting is no longer the best way. Hill, not his usually hysterical self, plays Brand very professionally. There are a few scenes that cause the viewer to laugh, but it’s the dialogue as scripted that’s funny and not just the delivery of lines for the purpose of adding humor to the film. Without a doubt, this is Hill’s most serious performance to date; and he excels in the role. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is perfectly cast as the manger of the team Art Howe. Seymour Hoffman’s ability to express the anger and frustration of a man put in a no win situation is so convincing that I could not foresee another person playing the part.
A movie that easily could have gotten bogged down with too much baseball action, or brimming with statistics or Sabermetrics, to be more specific, does a fine job of intertwining all of that with excellent story telling. You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to follow or understand what’s happening. Built around a great script, solid directing and an excellent cast, Moneyball delivers as an excellent film; without a doubt a homerun.
Award worthiness: Best Actor and Adapted Screenplay
Age appropriate: 13+