In 2002 the Oakland A’s set a major league record for winning twenty consecutive games and they did it with a group of rag tag misfits that no other team wanted. They used “small ball” analysis and mathematic formulas developed by a security guard named Bill James in the 1970′s. Moneyball is the story of how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) set the wheels in motion and changed the way professional baseball teams were assembled.
Billy Beane was a former big league player who didn’t quite pan out, and eventually became a scout, then the general manager for the Oakland A’s. His back was always against the wall because of Oakland’s baby-sized payroll compared to the hundreds of millions the Yankees and Red Sox spent on talent year in and year out. Things changed when Beane encountered a young Yale Graduate named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) working for the Cleveland Indians. Beane hires Brand away from the Indians and they immediately make waves embarking on trying to change the scope of baseball. Their idea is not a popular one, especially with piers with an entire life spent in baseball. They pick up catcher Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) who has a bum elbow and no other team wants to sign. Beane touts him to replace All-Star Jason Giambi, who they lost to free agency the season before. Oakland manager Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) knows that Hatteberg doesn’t know how to play first base and is reluctant to buy into Beane and Brand’s small ball. Maybe one of the big reasons the team also started the season with an eleven game losing streak. In a power struggle between players, management, and ownership, Beane struggles to cope with the pressure but stays the course and makes for one the more entertaining and attention-grabbing films of the year. Brad Pitt shows once again that he is not a one trick pony. Playing Beane with a trapped ferocity, almost always keeping his cool to keep up appearances, but the audience realizes the pressure is always underlying. Jonah Hill continues to impress, showing his straight guy acting chops as the nerdy bean counter (no pun intended). Director Bennett Miller turning to his Capote star Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe was a little bit of a stretch, but turned out nicely. Miller takes the Michael Lewis’s novel that for some might not be the most interesting plot for the big screen and keeps it humming along, never leaving the audience bored.
Baseball purists will say that this film glorifies Beane as something he is not. After all, he has only won one playoff series in fourteen years as Oakland’s general manager. But this movie isn’t all about putting Beane on a pedestal. Moneyball gives a unique look into the inner workings of the business of professional sports. This is not your typical sports movie. Light on baseball action and heavy on dialogue, this is not The Natural, but with Bennett Miller’s direction, a sharp and quick-witted screenplay from Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, and Brad Pitt make fireworks fly anyway. Moneyball is an inspirational and entertaining film about a side of sports we rarely get to see.