Friday, September 23, 2011

Movie with Abe: Moneyball

Directed by Bennett Miller
Released September 23, 2011

For a non-enthusiast (of sports), there are roughly two different kinds of sports movies. There are movies about the players, and there are movies about the sports. In the case of “Moneyball,” Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is a former player, who, in his behind-the-scenes role, is more than willing and ready to think outside the box and try to reinvent the game with new technology-based ideas from young up-and-comer Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). “Moneyball” becomes more than a sports movie thanks to its energetic cinematic rendering and a strong, captivating screenplay with great performers in the roles.

Brad Pitt is the kind of actor who, every once in a while, plays a serious part that demands exertion and careful poise from him. But usually, he’s more of an everyman, not quite as ubiquitously as his pal George Clooney, but he does it often enough to make it a standard. Fortunately, Pitt is exceedingly skilled at playing your average Joe, which makes his portrayal of Beane all the more effective. He quickly establishes Beane as someone whose gluttony of money and influence has only served to fuel his passion for the sport he loves so much, to the point that he lives and breathes nothing else.

Pitt is paired with an interesting choice for the role of wunderkind Brand. Jonah Hill, star of “Superbad,” gives what might be his first adult performance, both in a mature role and as an adult. It turns out that it’s a great fit for him, as he’s able to be more subtly comic with his glances and technical sentences. Together, they’re a dream team, going from awkward beginnings to full-fledged camaraderie, demonstrated in one particularly excellent scene in which the two make nearly a dozen back-to-back phone calls to rival general managers.

The creative team behind “Moneyball” has impressive credentials, and bringing them all together certainly makes this an impactful movie. Bennett Miller directs his first feature since the Oscar-nominated “Capote,” which is also likely the reason that Philip Seymour Hoffman has a relatively small and amusing role as the team’s disgruntled manager. The screenplay comes from the minds of two heavily established writers, Steven Zaillian, famous for “Schindler’s List” and “Gangs of New York,” and Aaron Sorkin, recent Oscar winner for “The Social Network.” The writing is sharp and makes the story extremely involving, emphasizing statistics and capitalizing on legitimately moving moments. Thanks to the proper focus, on the changing art of the sport rather than any one character’s personal life, this film succeeds as a grand, powerful, and fully entertaining film.


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