| Brad Pitt (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) stars in this drama that takes an unconventional approach to sports by focusing on the business aspects rather than games played on the diamond. This true story is adapted from the 2003 nonfiction bestseller, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game,” by financial reporter Michael Lewis. The winning lineup behind the camera includes director Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and screenwriters Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”).
After losing in the playoffs to the New York Yankees at the end of the 2001 season, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) has to rebuild his small market team within the constraints of a tight budget. He hires Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale graduate who majored in economics, as his assistant. They come up with a revolutionary plan that values players with bargain basement salaries that have the uncanny ability to get on base. The key to winning games is scoring more runs than the opposition and it all starts with either a hit or walk.
The intelligent screenplay makes number-crunching statistics interesting and entertaining. Sorkin’s tremendous knack for sharp, insightful dialogue elevates this movie to something truly memorable. Archival major league baseball footage and commentary by announcers Tim McCarver, Bob Costas and Glen Kuiper are seamlessly inserted into the narrative to satisfy baseball fans who have an unquenchable love for our national pastime.
Pitt is outstanding putting his heart and soul into this Oscar-caliber performance. He alternates between volatility and sensitivity in relating to his players having once been a promising first round draft pick of the New York Mets. Some of the best moments occur during the quality time spent with his 12-year-old daughter, Casey (Kerris Dorsey from “Brothers & Sisters”), who worries that her divorced dad may lose his job.
Hill offers comedic relief as the awkward, fish-out-of-water computer nerd. He looks like he belongs in the stands as an ordinary ticketholder rather than holding a prestigious position in the executive offices of a baseball organization. His timing is perfect playing opposite Pitt. The supporting cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”) as field manager Art Howe and Robin Wright (“Forrest Gump”) as Beane’s ex-wife Sharon.
The movie pays homage to Bill James of Lawrence, Kansas, who first espoused the formulas and equations in his annual “Baseball Abstract” that later became known as sabermetrics. Although Beane was the first baseball executive to put these theories into action, James has a devoted legion of enthusiastic followers that include software engineers, Wall Street analysts and physics professors.
The hearty round of applause at the end of the advance screening that I attended indicates the groundswell of popular support that will make this a box office hit. This astounding work of artistic expression is the cinematic equivalent of a perfect game or a come-from-behind walk-off grand slam home run.
The movie merits Academy Award consideration in several categories including Best Picture, Best Actor (Pitt), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Cinematography.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"