Some of the best camaraderie I’ve seen on the big screen lately is in the exchanges between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill throughout this unorthodox take on the traditional inspirational sports story.
Pitt plays the real-life Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, who recruits Hill, as a Yale economy major based on Paul DePodesta, to help him think outside the box in putting together a baseball team on an extremely low budget.
There’s a delicious deadpan thing happening with Pitt and Hill as they employ a statistical approach to scouting for new players, no doubt due to the thoroughy witty screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. It’s a pleasure to see Pitt as basically a regular relatable guy - a divorced dad who is driven to shake things up in his career - trading ideas with Hill, in one of his most likable and believable roles.
A dour Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the field manager of the team, doesn’t quite get what Pitt and Hill are up to so there are some flare-ups, but a rag tag roster of players is assembled (including Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Casey Bond, and Royce Clayton) that pulls off a 20-game winning streak.
Despite such factors as Pitt’s overly precocious daughter (Kerris Dorsey) and his ex-wife (a barely registering Robin Wright), there’s not much of an emotional impact to this material, but the backroom break-downs which make up the bulk of this film are engaging enough to draw one in.
Subdued yet extremely sharp, MONEYBALL isn’t a movie just for baseball fanatics, it’s for anybody who enjoys character driven drama about people experimenting with new methods with compelling determination. Pitt provides one of his most down to earth performances that carries the film superbly, and the inventive pairing of him with Hill works way better than one would think.
Not being a baseball guy, or a sports guy at all for that matter, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. It has the drive of the best docudramas – the ones that educate as much as they entertain – and folks should walk away with a good sense of how a couple of everyday guys can really be gamechangers.