Viewers beware; yes this movie is about baseball, but not necessarily the game as much as the numbers behind the game. Anyone can learn how to play baseball and knowing that might bring you to this movie, but that still doesn’t mean you are going to know what anyone is talking about.
Moneyball is about the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane(Brad Pitt) and how with the help of a computer analysis(Jonah Hill) he attempts to put together a winning baseball team on a shoe string budget. In the process they start to re-write the rule book on creating a team, from finding stars to finding stats.
As much as this movie is about the process of baseball, it is also the story of Billy and how he got to this point in his life. His whole story and if he is a likeable person hinges on the main actor’s performance. Luckily for the viewing audience that actor is Brad Pitt. As much as there is big hype over Pitt outside of acting, there is no denying the man is also good at his profession. Pitt spends most of the movie either thinking or quietly intimidating everyone around him, which could be a really boring performance if handle by someone else. Luckily, Pitt who has previously had experience with this, like in Assassination of Jess James and Tree of Life, knows how to make such a quiet role likeable and powerful at the same time. It also helps that in between his quiet moments, Pitts gets some really good regular guy dialogue that allows the audience to see him as a normal guy in an impossible situation.
To offset Pitt’s power is an unlikely partner in Jonah Hill as Peter Brand the computer analysis. Hill has come a long way since Superbad. He finally gets to show in this role that he has a serious side. As intimidating as Pitt is, Hill manages to bring a quiet fear to his role. Almost the entire film he portrays Brand as a fish out of water numbers boy in the room with a bunch of baseball men. Finally seeing this after the academy awards, kind of makes me wonder what the academy saw to nominate Hill for an Oscar. I don’t deny his acting was good, but I don’t think he did anything so impressive to get a nomination over others like Albert Brooks in Drive or Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method. I almost think he mostly got the nomination, because this role is such a departure from all his previous roles.
I think where this film fails is also its strongest aspect, the writing. The film was written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The same team that produced the screenplay for the academy award winning The Social Network last year. As powerful as what is written in this film, it also at times is too smart for its own good. Unless you are a huge fan of baseball and statistics, then every time people start talking numbers in this film it becomes very easy to get lost and honestly I got lost a lot. Where this type of writing worked in The Social Network it fails in Moneyball. Let’s be honest brainy smart talk sounds a lot better coming from a bunch of college computer nerds , then from a bunch of baseball guys.
This movie was made more for the thinking man then the baseball fan. If you can get past the numbers, then the film is successful in that at the heart is the story of a man just trying to make a difference. If you come to this film looking for the next The Rookie you are probably going to be a tad surprised, but fans of The Social Network and Field of Dreams might find a decent drama underneath the smart talk.
4 out 5