Films that hit bumps in the road during production often end up spiraling into the infinite wormhole of forgotten flops. Thankfully for movie-goers, Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” did the exact opposite, establishing itself as one of the best installments of 2011.
“Moneyball” is more than a sports film. It is a movie about the art of achieving success through uncustomary methods, even with the odds heavily favored toward the opposition. Also, it finds a way to add a touching human element that many will find captivating, as they not only see a man fight for his job, but also battle his own faith in his work.
The movie based on the Michael Lewis book delves into how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane aims to keep his under-funded squad in championship contention, while the richer, larger market teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox utilize their cash flow to buy success.
Portraying Beane is Brad Pitt, who delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the failed minor league prodigy-turned front office executive. Joining him is Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, a young college graduate who Beane finds working for the Cleveland Indians as a stat manager.
Together, Beane and Brand determine that the best way to compete is to not buy players, but instead, buy runs through in-depth statistical analysis referred to as sabermetrics.
The chemistry between Pitt and Hill is undeniably enjoyable, and at the same time, extremely comical. Their bond is challenged by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, the A’s manager, who is adamant about his disapproval of their unconventional way to build a club.
But what makes for an interesting sub-plot is Beane’s relationship with his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey), who perfectly complements Billy’s “occasional” temper tantrums. The arc brings a sentimental aspect to a story that may at first only appeal to sports fans.
Featured is the 2002 campaign of the A’s and their remarkable run to the postseason despite the lack of faith in Beane’s methods. Baseball junkies will pleasantly reminisce as they see names from the past such as Scott Hatteberg and David Justice, and be delighted as memorable in-game scenes are reproduced.
Miller does a tremendous job at capturing the irony behind Beane’s madness. He manages to romanticize the trailblazer-like character of Beane and his accomplishments despite the fact that his practices actually take away from what many perceive to be as the purity of baseball. Baseball is not supposed to be a numbers game, but Miller makes the audience forget that fact through excellent directing.
Overall, the movie exceeds its purpose of presenting a story about a baseball team overcoming obstacles, and provides much more in the process. Many of the technical aspects of the book are simplified, which makes it more understandable for a wider audience.
With a captivating cast and a well-written script, “Moneyball” not only hits a home run, but wins a batting title in the process.