Movie review: Will Moneyball throw you a curve ball?
Did you ever have high expectations for your life, but somehow along the way you were thrown a curve ball and things didn't work out exactly how you imagined? Moneyball knows exactly how you feel.
Dashed dreams. That's where Moneyball picks up the story of former baseball star Billy Beane -- played by Brad Pitt -- who's now the struggling general manager of the Oakland A's. He's had a lousy season, his team has no money and his family has left him high and dry.
He's got to put this ballpark back together if he's going to make something of his life. Seems challenging enough to field a major league baseball team, but Beane's got to do it on a dime. Out of money, out of ideas and out of luck, the Oakland A's need a miracle if they're ever gonna get back in the game.
The film is based on the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, who also wrote The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game, which was the source material for the 2009 Sandra Bullock film The Blind Side.
Moneyball is the story of one man's attempt to do the impossible -- build a million dollar baseball team on nothing but a poor man's budget. This character -- portrayed by Brad Pitt in his most accessible role to date -- has to think outside the box… or diamond, if you will.
He discovers a fresh-faced college grad who has a degree in economics from Yale, an insatiable love of the game and a solution to the problem. This could be Pitt's ticket out of this dump, should he want to leave... but we'll get to that.
Enter Jonah Hill. He's the fresh-faced kid with the algorithm that can help Pitt buy cheap players who can "get on base." That's the goal of this mathematical concept -- not to find players who are good first basemen or fast pitchers, but to find a bunch of guys who can "get on base." Pitt loves the idea, and Hill soon becomes his new apprentice.
Their on-screen chemistry, aside from the love letter to baseball and the raw emotion of Pitt's performance, is the best part of this movie. They're funny, but not gut-busting; serious, but not morose. Together they seem like such an unlikely match and the team they assemble is so much like "an island of misfit toys" that the audience wants nothing more than to see this odd couple succeed.
But the audience is not in the movie. Everyone else -- the coaches, the commentators and even some of the fans -- want them to fail. Robin Wright, who plays Pitt's ex-wife, has moved on without him and is less than enthusiastic about what he's trying to do. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the grumpy coach that blocks Pitt's every move.
But that's no problem for our guy. He gets the job done, no matter how many people he alienates in the process. Just hopefully not his daughter, played by Kerris Dorsey, for whom he has the highest affection. And so do we. In one simple scene in a guitar shop she opens her heart to her father with a song and the 13-year-old actor steals the scene from Pitt. He is gracious and lets her do it, which makes for one of the best moments in the film.
Chris Pratt plays an uncertain ball player. He's vulnerable, athletic, scared and adorable. The music is moving, subtle, emotional and everything you want from a film that loves the game of baseball. It loves the green, it loves the diamond, it loves the national anthem and the batting cage, the dirty locker room and the dingy offices. This film is essentially a hallmark to a sport that's suddenly my new favorite game.
For a woman who has basically spent her life backing out of rooms when there's a sports game on TV, I actually walked out of this movie wanting to see another baseball game. I know. Hard to believe. Moneyball made me a baseball fan.
But Moneyball isn't about baseball. Moneyball is about corruption and competition and how convoluted life can be. And what does Pitt say to that revelation? "To hell with the rules, I'm going to try something different, no matter how tough it is."
He cuts players, he trades them like oranges and he sends people down to the minors without the blink of an eye. A man's got do what a man's got to do to succeed. We might not like him very much sometimes, but we're behind him all the way.