Release Date: 9/23/11
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Genre: Biography, Drama, and Sport
Stars: 4 out of 5
‘Moneyball’ is the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Atheltics, and his attempt to build a team using sabermetrics instead of traditional scouting methods. By going this route, Beane can build a team that allows the cash-strapped A’s to compete for a championship with teams with big budgets like the Yankees. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, ‘Moneyball’ puts a different spin on the underdog tale that is sure to please both film and sports fans.
The film begins with the Oakland A’s losing to the New York Yankees in the 2001 postseason. General manager Billy Beane listens to the game on a transistor radio while sitting alone in the Oakland Coliseum. The loss is devastating for the A’s, since three of their best players are on the last year of their contracts. When Beane talks to the team owner, he learns that he has to replace Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen on a shoestring budget.
On a trip to Cleveland, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), whose unique outlook on scouting flies in the face of conventional baseball wisdom. Using analytics instead of raw talent, Brand develops sabermetrics as a way to measure the success of a baseball player through on-base percentage. While the older scouts scoff at Brand’s idea, Beane believes it will work, signing players like Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) and David Justice (Stephen Bishop), both of whom were considered unplayable by other teams in the league.
Director Bennett Miller takes what could have been a boring story and turns it into a fantastic underdog tale. By giving viewers access to the behind-the-scenes issues that plague many small-market baseball teams, ‘Moneyball’ takes a different approach than other sports movies that cover similar themes.
Brad Pitt gives one of his best performances as Billy Beane. The scenes with his daughter add heart to the story, while the scenes with his team show a man who is willing to risk his career to make his groundbreaking idea work. His opening scene, sitting alone in Oakland Coliseum, draws the viewer in as they can relate to his pain as his team loses in the playoffs.
The film takes chances with a couple of actors who are better known for their comedic work. Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand in an understated manner that shows a brilliant man who is not quite sure if his sabermetrics idea will actually work. It’s a different type of role for Hill, who is best known for his work in ‘Superbad’ and ‘Get Him to the Greek.’ Another actor best known for his work in comedy, Chris Pratt, plays Scott Hatteberg. Pratt, who appears on the NBC comedy ‘Parks and Recreation,’ more than handles his own as Hatteberg, a player who has been deemed a failure by most scouts, but becomes a major part of the A’s success.
What makes this film so successful is how it appeals to both film lovers and baseball enthusiasts. The baseball scenes are shot in a way that makes them feel immediate, yet accessible for those who may not be entirely sure of how the sport works. The plot interweaves with flashbacks of Billy Beane’s disastrous career as a player, putting it in stark contrast to the A’s rise in prominence.
Ultimately, what makes ‘Moneyball’ such a fantastic film is its characters. Beane and Brand are well rounded and the big players like Hatteberg are fully realized, allowing viewers to be invested in the film’s outcome. Even though people may be aware of how the story ends, the characters more than make it an intriguing tale. ‘Moneyball’ is a fantastic film and one of the best of 2011.