“Moneyball” is the “Wall Street” of sports movies. While a baseball film at its core, Bennett Miller’s (“Capote”) second feature is told from the unique perspective of the wheeling and dealing clubhouse managers. A mixed bag of cynicism and inspiration, “Moneyball” is completely captivating.
Adapted from the best-selling book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” the film tells the true 2002 story of Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s who is given the daunting task of creating a winning team on a shoe-string budget. Desperate to keep the A’s from becoming the runt of the litter and pitted against exorbitantly rich teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, Beane takes a leap of faith and hires timid economics wiz Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to create algorithms based on all of MLB’s statistics with the hope to create the perfect team on budget. Butting heads with head coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), experienced scouts and bitter players, Beane and Brand attempt to revolutionize the system and change America’s favorite pastime forever.
When you have a screenplay written by powerhouse writers like Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) you can expect some fireworks. That’s exactly what “Moneyball” delivers. Tightly packed with Sorkin’s typically smart, witty dialogue, the film beautifully tells a familiar human story while conversely treating baseball players, who are people, too, as little more than commodities.
Sorkin and Zaillian are smart to never pull on the heartstrings while managing to bring a freshness and intensity to an exhausted genre. With a team and a manager desperately trying to rise from the ashes, “Moneyball” is a universal story that everyone who has had to turn their lives around can relate to.
Both Pitt and Hill give outstanding performances. It’s nice to see Hill given an acting opportunity outside of his usual comedy output. Pitt’s portrayal of the aging baseball star-turned general manager is inspired. Pitt manages to keep the cocky spark that made him a star, but adds layers of regret, sadness and manic determination to create what could be his finest role yet.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the sport, “Moneyball” is an enthusiastic character study of one man’s determination to go against the grain and restore a lost fairness to a beloved pastime. Conveniently released in time for the playoffs and World Series, “Moneyball” strips away the romanticism of baseball but delivers one powerful and emotional drama.