Movie Review: Moneyball
By Ryan Mazie
September 23, 2011
Let’s get this clear right off the bat – I am not a baseball fan. I find America’s pastime to be slow and boring. So Moneyball is obviously not my most anticipated movie this fall. But with fast-paced editing and even quicker dialogue, Bennett Miller’s long-awaited follow-up to Capote is a surprise grand slam.
Dealing with the sticky, statistical sabermetrics as much as The Social Network had to deal with computer programming (both are smartly scripted by Aaron Sorkin), Moneyball is a relationship drama under the guise of a sports film.
Opening with a sports fumbling montage reel of the Oakland A’s (not all too different from 2009’s heart-warming smash The Blind Side), Moneyball centers on the team’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). A former yet failed ball player and family man, Beane is quietly desperate to leave his mark on the game he loves.
Set in 2002, when the star players are poached by the formidable New York Yankees, Beane radically shakes up the draft by using numbers and equations (in a way that is only half-explained) to nab the most undervalued players.
Pitt, continuing his winning streak of varied yet engrossing performances, is less of a pep-talker, more of a hack-arguer, whose rage eclipses his good intentions. Not hiding behind CGI (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), a southern draaaawl (Inglorious Basterds), or acid trip visuals (The Tree of Life), Brad gives an unusually vulnerable and raw performance as an everyman – something that I feel is a harder stretch for Pitt than his usual larger-than-life wheelhouse roles. One of his best roles yet, it is obvious why Pitt stayed with the project (he is also a producer) for nearly a decade as it was stuck in development hell (Steven Soderbergh was close to getting the picture off the ground until striking out with the studio a few days before going in front of camera).
However, it is Jonah Hill who steals the show with his portrayal of Peter Brand, a sabermetrics-knowing math whiz. Like Pitt, Hill breaks away from his comfort zone and comes out of hiding behind R-rated jokes for a performance that is grounded, with more depth than meets the eye. As the film progresses, Hill’s performance slowly creeps up on you, making Peter seem less of a character and more of an old friend,
A screen duo classic in the making, Pitt and Hill have a natural chemistry that philosophizes the “old-school” versus “new-thinking” baseball war. Based off the statistical same-name Michael Lewis novel, Sorkin and Steven Zaillian co-script the film, although many uncredited hands touched it before. Never dragging due to its quick-wit dialogue, some scenes feel repetitive, taking the grandiose route over the subtle way more often than not.
Miller shoots Moneyball with more visual flair than Capote, but still keeps rich character development. The baseball scenes, which are scarcer than the trailers let on, are filmed with an artistic eye, yet lack the nail-biting tension needed to keep them interesting.
With a near perfect batting average, Moneyball is a rich look at the business of baseball and ranks among the top-tier sports-centric dramas. Most importantly, Moneyball will be highlighted as the film where Jonah Hill emerged from being the funny fat guy to a wonderful, versatile actor. And for that reason alone, Moneyball is a home run.
8 out of 10