Brad Pitt delivers in a five-star performance in this three-star movie about money, baseball and family.
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the general manager of baseball team the Oakland A’s. He’s a success, taking his team to the latter stages of the world series with only a modest budget. However, he craves more.
After flunking out of professional baseball in his twenties, despite at one point being considered a prodigy, Billy has a bone to pick with the sport. He needs to win the highest accolades, but doesn’t have the financial backing to do so. Thus, in a radical move, he enlists recent Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a former economics student who believes that you can succeed in sport by relying on statistical averages and a wealth of data.
Between the two of them, they make a team out of a misfit bunch of outcasts, players who all have positive attributes but nobody else wants for one reason or another. At first the venture is an instant failure, much to the disgruntlement of team coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), but after ironing out some creases, things miraculously start to come together.
Pitt, and for that matter the rest of the supporting cast, is virtually perfect. Considering Moneyball is basically a star vehicle for his talents – there are very few shots where he doesn’t appear onscreen – that’s a remarkable achievement. I’ve long been a fan of his confident, cocky, presence-full acting, and after being nominated twice in the past, perhaps it is time for Pitt to pick up that Academy Award. After all, recently he stated that he intends to retire from acting at the age of fifty, a mere three years away. He’s more likely to get it for this than The Tree of Life, though picking between those performances is not easy.
Aside from spending almost every shot in the movie eating something or other, he also has many self-reflective moments: driving his car, wandering around an empty pitch, standing alone in the middle of nowhere. These types of moments are prone to being suffocating and pretentious, but Moneyball avoids that stigma purely on the strength of Pitt. He doesn’t over-act, nor does he remain overly stoic. The subtle facial expression and the tensing of a hand can be enough to portray a range of emotions, as is on show here.
Plot-wise it’s not such a success. The two separate stories of Billy Beane’s personal quest and the question of whether statistics can be used to win a baseball game are not intertwined enough to coexist. One should have been downgraded to a subplot, with the other taking the fore. This could have been amended by a redraft of the script, but it is not just the screenwriter who slightly lets down the production, there are also moments of questionable editing and camerawork; one is probably hurting he other but it’s difficult to tell which. You can’t help but think that, had Aaron Sorkin been the sole screenwriter (not just a co-screenwriter) and David Fincher the film’s director, it could have been a real classic. It’s interesting that Wally Pfister, the man responsible for the cinematography in all of Christopher Nolan’s films, is the DoP (Director of Photographer) here. Quite surprisingly, the visuals don’t come close to some of his other work, in particular numerous moments of off-putting focusing stand out.
Moneyball achieves like Senna before it by creating a film about a sport that can be appreciated by more than just fans of that sport. Loved, however, may be a stretch. As I said earlier, five-stars for Brad Pitt, three-stars for the film, I think that adds up to about…