‘Moneyball’ is a geek’s look at baseball—and a great one
Wed, Sep 21, 2011 (5:15 p.m.)
- Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Directed by Bennett Miller
- Rated PG-13
- Beyond the Weekly
- Official Movie Site
- IMDb: Moneyball
- Rotten Tomatoes: Moneyball
- Click here for a look at our staff's favorite baseball movies
Moneyball might be the first baseball movie (or sports movie of any kind) to celebrate bureaucracy, to revel in the transformative power of management and accounting. Sure, there are baseball players here, but they’re just tools for Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) to use in getting the results he desires. Beane and his nerdy right-hand man Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) reduce every one of those people to a set of numbers, and the movie’s triumphs come not from miracle home runs, but from those numbers adding up to victory (well, okay, there is one miracle home run).
Based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 nonfiction book, Moneyball tells the story of how Beane revolutionized baseball in 2002 by building a team based on the rigorous analysis of player statistics. Stuck with a tiny budget compared with other teams, Beane constructed his Oakland A’s roster by focusing on undervalued players, each of whom brought a single valuable statistical trait to the team. Helped by young Ivy League graduate Brand, Beane started racking up wins with a team that was laughed off the field at the beginning of the season.
So Moneyball might seem like an underdog story, with the much-maligned A’s suddenly turning into a powerhouse team. But in many ways it’s the antithesis of the inspirational sports movie, with a team that overcomes adversity thanks to perseverance and heart. The A’s don’t have heart; they have math. And director Bennett Miller (Capote) does a great job of making number-crunching and deal-brokering exciting; the movie’s most entertaining scene involves Beane and Brand making a series of phone calls to line up a set of perfect player trades.
Pitt is dynamic and charming and very Robert Redford as the charismatic, determined Beane, and Hill makes a nice transition from raunchy comedies as the socially awkward math whiz. The movie stumbles whenever it tries to find emotional resonance away from the game, especially in heavy-handed flashbacks to Beane’s own career as a failed major-league player. But as those scenes fade into the background and the power of the statistics becomes clearer, Moneyball becomes a fascinating celebration of pure logical thinking. It’s the best baseball movie for nerds ever made.