There will be no talk about this film ‘hitting a home run, rounding third to home or 3 strikes and you’re out’.
The new film starring Brad Pitt drops at theaters today. Moneyball is based on the true story of former baseball player and current GM and partial owner of the ‘As’, Billy Beane.
Billy is the GM of the Oakland Athletics who has just lost a shot at the world series as the film opens. He has also lost his three best players to teams with more money to offer. It seems Oakland is a ‘poor’ team who can’t offer multi-million dollar contracts to its players.
Forced to put together a team that has a chance to win some games, Billy goes to his boss to plead for more money to lure talent. With no extra money forthcoming, Beane has to get creative.
During a meeting with the execs of another team, Billy eyes Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who seems to be calling the shots as to who will and won’t be offered to the ‘As’. Beane, who misses nothing, confronts Brand and discovers he is using mathematics to grade players. It isn’t long before Billy brings Peter to work for him at the ‘As’ organization.
The ‘old school’ scouts are furious about this turn of events. Using math, (it’s actually called ‘Sabermetrics‘), to put together a roster isn’t very popular. However, use it he does with results that are part of baseball history.
According to Brand’s sabermetrics, it’s a good idea to hire almost 40 year-old Dave Justice (played by Stephen Bishop of Friday Night lights). Also hired are several players who are seemingly broken down or just complete losers. Beane takes a licking, but keeps on ticking through thick and thin. America loves an ‘underdog’ but sports analysts like to rip apart any player or manager who isn’t at the top of their game. The ride that the ‘As’ take during their first ‘sabermetrics’ season is rocky, but this is baseball. Someone once quipped ‘there’s no crying in baseball’. However there is anger, fighting, joy and pure love of the game.
The subplots in Moneyball brings the high drama of sports down to the drama of the human condition. Billy Beane was supposed to be a superstar in baseball, but he just couldn’t cut it in the big leagues. In several flashbacks we see the course of Billy’s own career choices and how they effected his life.
Another subplot concerns his relationship with his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey, Brothers & Sisters). Billy’s daughter lives with her mom and step father. They have a good relationship for the most part (which is refreshing), and Billy encourages her singing talent. He wants his daughter to be free of guilt when it comes to her life choices. Billy is constantly struggling with the choice he made to play ball instead of going to college. Hindsight is always 20-20.
Not being a big Brad Pitt fan I wasn’t really gung-ho to go see this film. But I’m really glad I did, Brad was excellent and the film is enjoyable. Of course, the star of the film is actually baseball. America’s favorite past time is front and center with all its pomp and circumstance. Behind the scenes drama is second only to what happens on the field.
Jonah Hill is amazing as the geeky Peter Brand. It is such a nice change for the actor who usually plays an idiot that stumbles into one stupid adventure after another to stretch into a more dramatic role. He is still funny, just….more dramatic. Jonah pulls this role off really well.
One more reason to go see this film is the delightful performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, the A’s manager. This man is a chameleon, stepping in and out of character roles like they were clothing. He wears this film very well.
Behind the scenes of the film we have writers, directors and producers with such credits as Social Network, Capote, Schindler’s List, A Few Good Men and Blindside. If this film were a piece of music it would be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in c minor, that’s how well it all comes together.
It’s 4/5 stars for Moneyball, with the World Series just around the corner….have fun and rediscover baseball.
For times and locations to see Moneyball in Las Vegas check NCM.com.