Friday, October 14, 2011
It is hard to believe that Moneyball is just director Bennett Miller's second movie. But then when going through the credits one comes across the screenplay writers as Steve Zaillian (A Civil Action, Schindler's List, Gangs of New York) and Aaron Sorkin ( A Few Good Men, The American President, Social Network), you know where the crux of material for the film is coming from. It eases you into believing that while Miller has undoubtedly done a fine job of telling a true story, he had Zallian and Sorkin for company and these are people who don't miss a beat when it comes to writing.
Based on a book of the same name by Michael Lewis, Moneyball is about a baseball player Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who in his teenage years was convinced that he should follow his dream of baseball ahead of pursuing a Stanford degree. It was a big decision influenced by a talent scout who led Beane into believing that he was a good player who could make it big in the league. After much deliberation, Beane gives up the Stanford degree only to become a shadow of the player he thought he would be in the professional league. Over a five-year term, he moves across teams only to fail everywhere and in his mid-40s finds himself managing the mid-rung league team of Oakland A's. By the end of 2001 season, Beane is losing players to higher salaries offered by other teams and the team owners won't let him have more money. A chance meeting takes him to a rookie analyst Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who has a got a great sense of numbers in judging players. With his tight budget, Beane sees value in hiring a man who treats players like stocks of companies on the Wall Street. And there begins a change in the A's team lineup. Moneyball is a heartwarming story of that change in the setup of Oakland A's led by Billy Beane and Peter Brand in the 2002 season of MLB.
Brad Pitt's stellar performance makes Moneyball his story and over the course of two hours we start empathizing with his character's ambition to be the best in the league or to win the last game of the season as he calls it. Pitt is matured, measured and meticulous as Billy Beane and he has us hooked. His fastidious character finds in Peter Brand a merciless judge of players and that suits Billy who is looking to make the best of his limited budgets. Jonah Hill's character of Brand impresses upon Billy Beane the need to look into statistics and value-for-money players and together they embark on a cleanup act of the team that raises many eyebrows. Jonah Hill's Peter Brand act is a scene-stealer from the very first conversation he has with Brad Pitt. He is nonchalant, caricaturish and ruthless at different times and each of his scenes are sheer fun to watch. A particular scene with Brad Pitt, when the two are in the midst of trading players sitting on a deadline must rank as one of the best scenes in movies this year. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the team coach has a limited impact on the storyline and is one character whose conflicts with this new system could've been brought out sharper. Being a sports movie, Moneyball required some realistic filming and Wally Pfister's cinematography delivers with the art direction team who bring out the atmosphere of a baseball season quite effortlessly.
Moneyball is the best Hollywood movie I have seen all year and will surely get Pitt and Jonah Hill nominated for the Oscars. It's that one unmissable movie of the year that after it has ended makes you wish it was a bit longer. It is a treat for anyone who likes biographies or sport movies or underdog stories. Now, everyone out there should surely fall into one of those three categories. Or let's just say it is one hell of a home run !