Brad Pitt Is Terrific in a Character Study Set in the World of Baseball
Brad Pitt creates a memorable character in Moneyball (2011), and he gets strong support from Jonah Hill, here playing a serious role. Pitt and Hill portray baseball executives, so the dramatic scenes take place in offices rather than on the playing field. The film has a smart script by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), and the director was Bennett Miller (Capote).
Moneyball is a dramatized version of the real-life story of Billy Beane (Pitt), general manager of the Oakland A's, a Major League Baseball team. The movie takes place in 2002, and we watch the 44-year-old Beane go through a crisis at work. We also see his relationship with his 12-year-old daughter from a failed marriage. And via flashbacks, we learn that the young Billy passed up a Stanford scholarship to play pro baseball, but he washed out. By film's end, we feel we've come to know Billy Beane.
The movie was inspired by the 2003 nonfiction book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. The book details how the 2002 Oakland A's spent only a third as much as the New York Yankees in players' salaries, yet both teams won the same number of games. The A's success is attributed to Beane's use of certain statistics as an aid to player selection, and this is dramatized in the film. But don't worry — you don't need to know anything about statistics or baseball to enjoy the movie. In Moneyball, the filmmakers have done the seemingly impossible: they have made a warm, humanistic movie about the business side of baseball.
Overcoming a Lack of Money With an Innovation Based on Statistics
Brad Pitt gives the performance of a lifetime in Moneyball as Billy Beane, general manager (GM) of the Oakland A's. Beane is responsible for acquiring and holding onto baseball players who can make his team a winner, and he has to accomplish this task within the meager budget provided by the A's ownership. Shortly after the film gets underway, three of the A's best players leave so they can make more money by joining other teams. Beane tries to get the A's ready for the new season by making offers to free agents and proposing trades, but he doesn't have the resources to compete with the other 29 major league teams for the players generally recognized as good.
Then Beane happens to meet nerdy Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, known for comedy, but here showing unexpected versatility in a strong dramatic role), who studied economics at Yale. Brand tells Beane about a statistical approach that promises to be able to identify players who are more valuable than generally thought. Beane hires Brand as his assistant GM, and together they acquire several such players for very little money. The movie goes on to show what happens to the A's during the 2002 season. What Beane and Brand ultimately achieve is to change the way front offices throughout Major League Baseball think about player evaluation.
But the strength of Moneyball is that it gives viewers an entertaining, authentic-feeling look behind the scenes of the grand old sport that since the 1850s has been called America's "national pastime."
The Moneyball DVD contains 51 minutes of video extras.
If you're interested in the subject matter of Moneyball, don't miss watching the 16-minute "Billy Beane: Re-Inventing the Game." Here you'll meet the real-life Billy Beane, as well as author Michael Lewis.
For more on making the film, watch the 19-minute "Moneyball: Playing the Game." Here the director, producers, production designer, costumer, cinematographer and people from Major League Baseball give some details about making the movie. The key filming location was the unglamorous Oakland Coliseum.
The DVD also contains three deleted scenes with a total runtime of 12 minutes. In one of the scenes, Billy Beane has been given a girlfriend who is less attractive than his ex-wife. But in the finished film, the girlfriend is completely absent.
Finally, there's the three-minute "Blooper — Brad Loses It," in which Pitt finds something — we never find out what — makes him laugh so much he has difficulty getting through a serious scene.
DVD Release Date: January 10, 2012
Feature Film Runtime: 2 hours 13 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Some Strong Language