Pitt and Hill team seamlessly in Moneyball

by David Dixon

Billy Beane and Peter Brand work to build the best Oakland Athletics possible using cutting-edge statistics and natural instinct | mct  campus
Billy Beane and Peter Brand work to build the best Oakland Athletics possible using cutting-edge statistics and natural instinct | mct campus

“Moneyball” could easily have been called “The Ugliness and Joys of Modern Baseball.” Director Bennett Miller pulls no punches in showing the problems inherent in the beloved sport. Relationships with loved ones are destroyed, players get fired randomly and not winning is the worst sin of all. Losing leads to lifelong emotional damage and a bitterness that eats away at the soul.

It might be hard to believe, but there is a significant upswing amid all this drama. Miller and screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian imply being loyal to America’s favorite pastime through thick and thin leads to a rare kind of happiness. For Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), winning a game is heaven and the key to eternal bliss.

Billy is the general manager for the Oakland Athletics, a team with very few victories at the start of the 2002 season. He eventually meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who is something of a mathematical genius. Impressed with his innovative thinking and knowledge, Billy hires Peter to become his assistant general manager and to find a way to help the Oakland A’s.

Pitt and Hill have terrific dramatic and comedic rapport and both deliver equally wonderful performances. Pitt displays honest emotion in his deliberately flawed depiction of Billy. At his darkest, he is prone to throwing physical tantrums and sometimes is a little too impressed with his own accomplishments. Still, he remains a compassionate figure who has a lot of affection for his line of work.

If Billy is the soul of “Moneyball,” Peter is the gooey heart of the movie. He respects Billy as a student who shows consistent admiration for an influential teacher. Hill exhibits a natural zeal in his conversations with Pitt, quickly making Peter an endearing character.

Miller wants to showcase the day-to-day operations behind the scenes when it comes to a full season of baseball. The audience will see how Billy handles free agency and trade deadline pickups, making additions that were perceived as worthless by the rest of his peers. Yet, these factors significantly contributed to a magical 101-win season.

Despite the joy, Billy has ugly moments with manager Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and Miller takes quite a bit of time to explore what Billy does after the final major game. In other words, viewers go on an expedition with the general manager unlike most other sports pieces.

People who read the book that inspired the movie, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” might complain the film glosses over certain details inevitable with any page-to-screen adaptation. It is better, in this case, to view the movie with as little prior knowledge as possible about Billy and the Oakland A’s, for the climax and resolution come completely out of left field, no pun intended.

Drawing a fine line between art and realism, “Moneyball,” is an invigorating look into a revolutionary moment in the world of sports. There is a surprising amount of complexity at its center, turning “Moneyball” into fascinating cinema.

Information about “Moneyball” can be found at moneyball-movie.com.

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