Moneyball is the true tale of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane – a onetime Major League Baseball player himself. Beane is challenged by the unfavorable financial circumstances of the A’s, who struggle to compete against more solvent MLB franchises. Beane’s determination to build a championship team, despite his inability to snag the big money players, leads him to a partnership with Peter Brand (a pseudonym for Paul DePodesta) who develops a sabermetric approach to drafting talent.
It’s hard to deny the power behind this film, with Brad Pitt in both the starring and producing role. A heavy hitting cast of Jonah Hill (finally relieved of his goofy shtick, as Peter Brand, the genius assistant general manager), Philip Seymour Hoffman (as Art Howe, manager of the Oakland A’s), Chris Pratt (also allowed to finally embrace a more serious role, as Scott Hatteberg, the A’s first baseman) and Kerris Dorsey (from TV’s Brothers & Sisters, as Billy’s daughter) help bring Beane’s story to life. There’re a slew of lesser-used standouts as well, including a “Sean Penn-free” Robin Wright (as Billy’s ex-wife) and Steven Bishop (as David Justice).
That’s not to say that Pitt’s influence in Hollywood meant getting this movie to the big screen was smooth sailing; in fact it was anything but. Steven Soderbergh was initially tapped to direct, but the project stalled for years after the studio rejected his unique vision (which included an animated version of Bill James, the innovator behind sabermetrics, giving tips as the film went along). Moneyball was considered a lost cause until director Bennett Miller (Capote) came onboard and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) agreed to sprinkle the dialogue with his magic screenwriting dust. Brad recently revealed that he didn’t know why he was so compelled to make this film; he just knew it had to get done. His gut was right on – it’s a strangely fascinating story that could’ve been extremely dull in the wrong hands and Pitt’s perseverance to bring it to life will most likely land him at the front of the Oscar race in 2012.
I guess Brad was saving all his romancing energy for home. Jonah didn’t get any action either. Fair is fair!
One of my pet peeves is when a critic reviews a film based off of something it’s not – i.e. expecting an Oscar performance from Your Highness or anything less than summer blockbuster fun from Thor. Moneyball is a film about baseball – and on that it delivers 100%. Brad Pitt gives a sublimely layered performance as the driven Beane and his supporting cast is outstanding. So that’s where the “Toast” comes from – an unbiased moviegoer trying to do right by the readers of MovieBoozer. That said, as a woman who has little interest in a baseball and a large interest in Brad Pitt, I would’ve rated the movie with a few more beers. The subject matter is dry for someone unfamiliar with baseball and there is nary a love interest for Pitt to romance when he comes home from the office. It is straight up about baseball – and only baseball – save a few scenes with his character’s adorable daughter. They even cut Kathryn Morris, as Beane’s wife Tara, from the film completely. The only thing Brad wraps his lips around is a succulent looking sandwich.
But Billy Beane’s inspiring story is bigger than my libido. Beane and Brand had the guts to change the score of America’s pastime, using math instead of cash to even the odds on the playing field. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t tear up during the triumphant scene when the A’s hit their historic 20 game winning streak. Maybe there is something to this non rom-com genre after all…
Regardless of your level of interest in baseball, Pitt and crew will knock your socks off. Look for the cast’s smiling faces at the 2012 Academy Awards.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time Beane and Brand run player stats.
Take a drink: every time you envision what the film would’ve been like with Demetri Martin in Jonah Hill’s role, as it was originally cast.
Take a drink: when the grumpy old men at the A’s drafting roundtable crack you up.
Take a shot: if you’re like me and think, “Damn, I just want Brad to kiss someone – anyone.”
This film is gunning for the big leagues, so don’t bother waiting around for any jokey clips – it’s all business.