When I consider my favorite actors, Brad Pitt is the number one contender. It seems like a cheap answer because he is so popular and so prolific that it seems like an easy choice. But when you look at films like A River Runs Through It, Fight Club, Benjamin Button, Se7en, Troy, Meet Joe Black, Legends of the Fall, Twelve Monkeys, Inglourious Basterds… He has an astounding resume. So when I saw that he was doing a “true story” film about baseball, I gave the film a chance.
Pitt stars as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who shakes up the world of major league baseball by looking for runs instead of stars. He helps make this change by recruiting Jonah Hill’s character, who has a knack for analyzing players and putting percentages to how likely they’ll get on base. This movie follows their rise (spoiler?) to fame.
First off, this is a true story. Billy Beane’s wiki page is here. It’s a relatively happy tale and I got goosebumps on a few occasions.
But does it entertain? Does it succeed as a film?
Yes. The film has an impeccable sense of pacing, knowing exactly when to slow down and exactly when to skip to the good part. My problem with baseball is that it seems incredibly slow, as you can go for a long time without anyone even making contact with the ball. But this movie doesn’t expect you to be a fan of baseball. The cinematography is gorgeous and the music is sparse but effective.
Brad Pitt succeeds in the lead role by knowing exactly when to play the typecast Pitt role of the arrogant and charming leading man, but he also knows when to play the angry and defeated shell of a man. This film gives him plenty of chances to play both and he’s quite convincing. His scenes with his daughter are especially poignant (and she is quite a show stealer).
Jonah Hill seemed an odd choice initially but he does serve as the comedic relief of the film, though he is used rarely and effectively. His sense of naivete and innocence also helps to counter Pitt’s confidence onscreen. They have a nice balance. Philip Seymour Hoffman is kind of around and is the closest thing to an antagonist in the film but he doesn’t really get any sort of closure to his story (maybe that’s just due to what really happened).
A nice surprise was a touching performance by Chris Pratt (who I recognized as Andy from Parks and Rec). I’ve only seen him do comedy but there were a few moments where he impressed me with his subtlety.
Overall, I have very little criticism. It’s fun, suspenseful, and actually made me interested in baseball. There were some cool techniques used that I wouldn’t have expected that gave this film about America’s favorite pastime… a distinctly modern feel. In this slow movie season, Moneyball stands out as an obvious choice and obvious recommendation.