Plot: The Oakland A’s have just lost to the New York Yankees in the playoffs, but their season was an impressive run and despite one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, the team put up remarkable returns. But the loss has hit General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) hard, as frustrations over his lack of resources set in and he faces loses three of his best players in the off season. He travels to Cleveland in an effort to secure some new talent and is rebuffed, but he does meet Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young man who has a nontraditional view of how baseball works. Beane is captivated by what Brand has to say and hires him to join Oakland, to assist him as he tries to rebuild and replace the outgoing talent on a shoestring budget. Beane and Brand begin to assemble a new team using a little known, but maligned analysis system that has the A’s populated by colorful, but mostly unwanted players. But will this system crash and burn like everyone seems to think, or have they cracked baseball’s code?
Entertainment Value: This is a movie that centers on baseball, but you don’t need to be a fan to appreciate Moneyball. Based on the best selling book, which was based on real life events, the movie is more about the people involved and the monumental task they undertook. Billy Beane was tasked to win an unfair game, given little resources and asked to battle titans with endless funds, a challenge he rose to and in the process, he tried to change how baseball is approached. The incredible run of the A’s was a huge story and while the movie simplifies the Moneyball system, enough of the spirit of it comes through here. And a film that drowns in statistics wouldn’t have had such wide appeal, so the paring down of the material makes sense. So don’t skip this one just because it looks like a sports movie, as it offers a personal, engaging narrative and plenty of appeal to those who aren’t sports fans. The pace is good and is able to establish the narratives in clear, concise fashion, which couldn’t have been a simple task, given the nature of the material. The real heart of Moneyball is Beane’s story and it is one worth experiencing, while the baseball elements and Moneyball tactics are more icing on the cake, as it were.
As I mentioned before, Beane’s personal story is what drives Moneyball, so Brad Pitt has a lot to shoulder in this one. I was impressed by his performance, as he keeps it simple and effective, an understated, but powerful effort. He doesn’t seem like himself, which is a compliment, as he disappears into the role even though he isn’t under makeup or some wild character. He just really sinks into the role of Beane and nails the performance, one of his best turns as far as I’m concerned. Jonah Hill isn’t as memorable as Peter Brand, but his performance is solid and his scenes with Pitt are fun to watch. But it feels similar to some of his other roles, which isn’t all that bad, since he does the whole “awkward outsider” approach well. Chris Pratt and Philip Seymour Hoffman have smaller roles, but perform well and Robin Wright does fine with the time she’s given, but this is first and foremost Pitt’s show. Moneyball is a movie that might not be stylish or flashy, but it tells an interesting story and does so with immense skill. I think it is a tremendous movie and does the book justice.