Because of its main theme of a baseball team out of funds – Moneyball could have been boring, especially considering today’s daily economic news coverage. Fortunately, writers Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) have elevated this true story adapted from Michael Lewis' 2003 book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game to a smart film which should be enjoyed by a wide audience.
Director Bennett Miller’s (Capote) vision creates a story far more dramatic than the book, so the movie never becomes a scoreboard. Lead actor Brad Pitt adds even more validation and part of the reason why Moneyball may appear on several upcoming Academy-Award nomination lists.
Brad Pitt & Kerris Dorsey
Billy Beane (Pitt), a quiet worrier, is a family man now divorced who sees his daughter (Kerris Dorsey) only on visiting days. He’s also a washed-up baseball star currently serving as general manager and a minority owner of the Oakland Athletics. Billy has plenty to worry about in the upcoming 2002 season. The team lost their most valuable payers including Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen; and the owner lacks money to pay big salaries.
Brad Pitt & Jonah Hill
As the old scouts set around a room debating who to acquire for the new season, a funny – or irritating depending on your outlook – moment takes place when they begin to consider players by how their wives look! Billy has a surprise for them. He’s just met Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a recent Yale grad and an economics genius who has dissected the game of baseball like a surgeon. Not quite sold on Brand’s explanations about not focusing on high salary players but instead on stats that make little sense, Billy throws this idea out. The men look at him like he’s trying to sell a whale to a zoo. When Billy assures them he’s not asking but telling them everything about their season picks is about to change, most jump ship.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Billy soon appears to have stepped on a mine because no one is supporting him except Peter. The team loses games because the players don’t get it, and manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) not only thinks Billy has lost it, but adamantly refuses to follow his orders on where to place certain players.
Pitt’s portrayal of Billy ends up far from any pretty-boy roles that come to mind, and it’s obvious why he hung on for the years it took to finally get a green light for Moneyball. Pitt methodically brings every moment of angst plaguing Billy to the screen. Because he does this so well it’s easy to feel Billy’s pain. Every decision he makes seems quickly arrived at – that is until we glimpse him in deep thought while straddled on a bunch of bleacher chairs or turning around midway on a highway because his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey) tells him he needs to be at a game. And then we realize that Billy puts his heart into every decision he makes.
Hoffman’s role may not be worthy of a bow like many he’s played before, but Moneyball belongs to Pitt, so it works. As the young girl who worries about her dad losing everything, Dorsey gives a sweet performance. She does a great job singing Lenka's “The Show.” The lyrics “I’m just a little girl lost in the moment” mirror the expressions on Dorsey’s intuitive face.
Hill is thoroughly entertaining as Peter. Movie fans who don’t know him from Get Him to the Greek or Superbad will not forget this outstanding performance. Hill hits the self-prescribed geek on the head, makes us laugh when he’s stone-faced and perplexed and adore him every time his character has Billy’s back.
Non-baseball fans need not worry about an excessive amount of baseball play in this movie. Moneyball balances humor, a heartfelt story and an inspirational true event that brings everyone to the handrail cheering, clapping, and surprised by some real baseball trivia.
Photo Credits: Melinda Sue Gordon / Columbia TriStar Marketing Group