film reel image

film reel image

Friday, September 27, 2013

Moneyball 2011 * * * * Stars

Director: Bennett Miller
Year: 2011
Rated  PG-13
Rating: * * * * Stars
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Let's me just start this review by saying that if The Social Network (2010) were a baseball movie, it would be the equivalent of Moneyball, my pick for best film of 2011. Both vehicles are intelligent, dialogue driven, and brilliantly acted by the leads. And what I didn't notice till recently was that both films were written by the same guy, Aaron Sorkin of TVs West Wing fame. His screenplays crackle with biting information about the world the characters inhabit.

From his razor sharp script and director Bennet Miller's careful direction, comes Moneyball, a film depicting the true story of GM Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) taking his 2002 Oakland A's to the playoffs (20 game win streak) with a less than talented roster and minimal payroll. He gets help from Yale grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and the two of them compile a roster of players based on unusual hidden stats that a lot of other teams don't pay attention to. This whole concept is based on a book Hill's character reads entitled Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. To the dismay of team manager Art Howe (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman who may be the world's best character actor), the team starts out slow and makes his job miserable. But over time, the A's go on an unflappable streak and end up winning an enormous amount of contests for a standard 162 game season.

What really stands out is that Moneyball is different from most baseball films. It goes behind the scenes. You don't see a lot of the game being played. You see people talk about baseball. You get the ins and outs of the business. Normally, this would be looked at as some kind of documentary, but the film doesn't let that happen.  It expertly delves into the mind of Pitt's character while not quite letting the viewer see the wheels in his head turning. It's about the performances and Pitt as Beane garnered him an Oscar nomination that was well deserved. In fact, all the actors make it look real, they make scenes stick. You really wonder if half of them were actually working for Major League Baseball.

Ultimately if you want to be inspired or moved by the power of movies, Moneyball is an exercise in intelligent, good old fashioned film making. It's a HOME RUN!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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