“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” – Billy Beane in “Moneyball”
I totally agree. While I’m not a fan of the sport, I am a fan of it in movies. There’s just something about baseball that lends to natural drama onscreen. The traditions, the Americana, the suspense of the last out — it usually leads to cinematic success, whether in dramas such as “The Natural” or comedies like “Major League” and “The Bad News Bears.” You can now add “Moneyball” to the list of great baseball films.
Based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s during the last decade, “Moneyball” tells the story of how he put together a successful team with a limited payroll based on statistical analysis. After losing to the New York Yankees in the playoffs in 2001, the A’s are looking to rebuild their team since they’ll be losing their top players to free agency. However, with a budget only a third of the richer teams such as the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Beane doesn’t have many options and needs to get creative. He hires Peter Brand, an economics major from Yale, to be his assistant because Brand has developed a strategy that finds value in cheaper players. This turns the professional baseball scouting system upside down as Beane and Brand are no longer looking for big names and big numbers, but lesser-known players who can deliver solid results for a bargain price.
Brad Pitt is the perfect choice to play Billy Beane. He has that golden boy, all-American look, and his performance is solid. I’ve always been a fan of Pitt, and he delivers once again in “Moneyball,” portraying Beane as relentless, genius and ambitious. Jonah Hill (“Superbad”) gives a surprisingly low key and effective performance as Brand. I kept waiting for him to fall back to his usual comedic sarcasm, but he refrains, and all the laughs from him are real and unforced.
Enhancing the performances is an intelligent screenplay by two of Hollywood’s most accomplished writers Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”). Not only do they make the complicated world of baseball statistics accessible, but their dialogue is smart, believable and well-paced. “Moneyball” proves that the romance of baseball is still alive.
“Moneyball”, 133 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters Friday.