Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, is flat out brilliant. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, director Bennett Miller has managed to take what was on his pages - statistics, strategy and a study in personalities - and impeccably bring it to the big screen.
Pitt stars as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. The film’s true story centers on how after the 2001 season that saw the A’s on the brink of the World Series, Beane had to reinvent his team after his stars -- Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon -- were pillaged by free agency that they could not afford. Beane was looking at a baseball landscape populated by teams with $100-plus million payrolls winning while teams such as his, with $30 million-plus payrolls, were left in the dust. Beane felt there was still a way to win and that triumphant journey is chronicled with passion in Moneyball.
Enter Jonah Hill as Peter Brand. Beane sees something in the Yale educated economist whom he meets while Brand is working for the Cleveland Indians. Brand doesn’t see productivity or age in determining a player’s worth. Hill’s character believes that as baseball is a team sport, if each player can perfectly play their role, there’s no reason victories can't pile up. Immediately in Moneyball, and in real life, Beane hires him for the A’s.
Hill and Pitt have an amazing volley as actors while tag teaming the baseball establishment. Hill has arrived as a dramatic actor in Moneyball after a career in comedy. Meanwhile, his partner in crime on screen is Pitt and the actor delivers in droves.
Pitt is in an incredible place right now creatively. He long ago proved he was much more than a pretty face. But it is in Moneyball that his command of the screen has never been so solid. Moneyball is Pitt’s movie and even as the final credits roll, the overwhelming feeling felt by the viewer is yearning for more Brad Pitt as Billy Beane. Pitt plays Beane as a man with an ego that comes across through his belief in the system he and Brand are creating. But Pitt also adds a layer of vulnerability to his character that shines in scenes with Beane’s daughter, but also in his almost daily battles with A’s manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman in an astoundingly understated performance), who is questioning the system every step of the way. That is, until the A’s start winning.
As Moneyball is a true story, there is no way to invent a Hollywood ending where one does not quite exist. Yet what the film provides from the real life tale is something more than witnessing screaming fans’ celebration. It is a story of the triumph of the human soul.
Looking at the history of the 2002 Oakland A’s, we know they make the playoffs, but fail in Beane’s dream of reaching the World Series -- no spoilers here, it is simply the facts. What the 2002 Oakland A’s do achieve is making history by breaking a record long thought unbreakable by anyone in Major League Baseball. That part of the film is its penultimate triumph and the reality of the baseball world is what keeps Moneyball real. We’re sure A’s fans would have liked their own Hollywood conclusion, but as shown in Moneyball, what Beane, Brand and the A’s accomplished is much more powerful than a World Series ring.
Moneyball is about cherishing souls that have been undervalued. Its themes transcend the baseball field to life itself. And as such, it is one of the best sports movies of all time - a don’t miss two hours at the cinema that is truly to be treasured - and one of the top films of 2011.
Peruse some of our favorite Moneyball quotes and share your comments below!