'Moneyball': Brad Pitt knocks it out of the park
A review of "Moneyball," a movie that will remind you why Brad Pitt is a movie star — as if you needed reminding.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Moneyball,' with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kerris Dorsey, Robin Wright. Directed by Bennett Miller, from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Michael Lewis. 126 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some strong language. Several theaters.
Bennett Miller's thoroughly enjoyable baseball comedy "Moneyball" reminds us, in case we needed reminding, why Brad Pitt is a movie star. As Billy Beane, general manager for the Oakland A's, Pitt's as comfortable and casual as a broken-in baseball cap, striding confidently through the movie like the former golden-boy athlete Beane was.
He's funny, irreverent and perpetually amused; even when stressed-out, he's still breathing happier air.
Based on a 2003 book by Michael Lewis (who also wrote the nonfiction book on which the movie "The Blind Side" was based), "Moneyball" is a sports movie without a whole lot of sports in it; instead, it's about men in backrooms debating player averages, and how one of those men came up with a revolutionary way to build a team. (It's also — quite effectively — about that delicious crack of bat meeting ball, but there are far fewer sports-action scenes in this movie than you'd expect, and those with no previous baseball knowledge may well find much to enjoy.)
Beane, frustrated by his team's inability to shine, turned to a young number cruncher from Yale named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to help him choose players through statistical analysis of their records. "You don't just put a team together with a computer," scoffs a scout, but that's exactly what Beane does — and it looks like it's working.
Miller, in his long-awaited follow-up to the excellent "Capote," keeps it all as breezy as his star. Working from a funny, swift script by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, he lets us smell the out-of-date aftershave in the A's meeting rooms, lit by weary fluorescent bulbs, and gets splendid work out of his cast.
As Brand, a fish out of water in the A's offices (in his preppy wool sport coat, he always looks uncomfortably warm), Hill wonderfully conveys the constant, goofy nervousness of a young math whiz who's always been just a little afraid of athletes. Philip Seymour Hoffman (who won an Oscar playing the title role in "Capote"), appropriately potbellied, swaggers through the movie as the A's skeptical field manager Art Howe, and Kerris Dorsey, of TV's "Brother's and Sisters," is a charmer as Beane's young daughter.
Only Robin Wright seems ill-used; this fine actress has so little screen time as Beane's ex-wife that you wonder how much of her performance was lost in the editing room.
But this is Pitt's movie, and the turf on the field seems just a little greener whenever he's on screen. His Beane, perpetually beleaguered, is nonetheless never at a loss for words (except when his daughter floors him with a sweet song).
"I'm going to be praying for you and your family," an earnest young player tells him midmovie, in gratitude for being chosen for the team. Beane pauses, only briefly nonplused. "No problem!" is his what-the-hell reply.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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