In order to make a great sports movie that will appeal to everyone, you have to make a movie that not only focuses on the mechanics of the sport but also on the people that associate with it and thus might find the emotional core of the story. In the case of baseball which is strictly an American sport, it is difficult to find the right story for an international audience. However with the latest film by Capote director Bennett Miller, they certainly catch the ball (no pun intended).
Moneyball is based on the true story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who is in utter frustration as the general manager of the Oakland Athletics which have barely won a single game in years. When he meets economics expert Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Beane hires him to put together a baseball club which can be drafted through computer-generated analysis.
Just like The Social Network wasn’t really about Facebook, Moneyball isn’t really about baseball despite the narrative involving the players and managers, so hiring Aaron Sorkin as co-writer is a fine choice due to his always smart and witty dialogue. A lot of the action centralises on the conversations between Beane and Brand who discusses the mathematics of how their baseball team should be assembled, much to the disapproval of the other staff members who are essentially a bunch of oldies with the same old methods.
In order to understand the determination of Beane wanting his team to succeed, the film would occasionally flashback to his early years as a young player who started off extraordinarily and suddenly his talent sort of fades away. Changing his position to scout and later general manager, Beane wants to try anything that will allow the Oakland A’s to succeed. Whenever the Athletics play, Beane would not watch in order to prevent an emotional connection with the players, so we would just watch this calmed but worried face.
With his third directorial piece, Bennett Miller seems right at home, no matter what subject he deals with. Like his previous film, Miller establishes a very subtle tone to a story that seems grand. Following his frequent collaboration with Christopher Inception Nolan, cinematographer Wally Pfister presents a beautifully open world within the numerous baseball stadiums, where Billy Beane would be at peace whenever they are empty.
When he’s good, he’s really good and when he’s bad, he’s just that handsome Pitt and in the case of Moneyball he truly shines. Seeing Brad Pitt doing straightforward drama is captivating as in the role of Beane, his determination is what dominates the screen, to the point that he even outshines a bald Philip Seymour Hoffman which is very surprising. From his time during the hit-and-miss works of Judd Apatow, Jonah Hill playing the fictional Peter Brand is terrific as he’s not some bumbling funny mascot and his chemistry with Pitt is wonderful.
As for the supporting performances, there should have been more time spent on the players including Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteburg and Stephen Bishop as David Justice, so we could understand the challenges they go through. As a man who spends a lot of his time on his own, there’s not much on his family including Robin Wright as his ex-wife, although the scenes involving his daughter are lovely. Pay attention to a strange cameo presence by Spike Jonze.
Even if you’re not into a sport which requires throwing, swinging and hitting a ball, Bennett Miller’s Moneyball is an uplifting experience about a man (played brilliantly by Brad Pitt) who so much wants to succeed through contrived methods.
DIRECTOR: BENNETT MILLER
SCREENWRITERS: STEVEN ZAILLIAN, AARON SORKIN
STARRING: BRAD PITT, JONAH HILL, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN
RUNTIME: 133 MINS