More than just balls
In Moneyball, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, manager of the Oakland Athletics, whose efforts to build up a winning team are hampered by conventional scouting methods and lack of funds.
During negotiations with a rival team, Beane meets lowly, overweight Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an enthusiastic devotee of the “sabermetric” approach that prioritises careful analysis of a player’s on-base percentage rather than obvious showcase talents.
Beane employs Brand, and they put together a team of low-budget cast-off and has-been players – with high on-base percentages. Facing opposition from old-school team advisors and the coach (Philip Seymour Hoffman), they take on the establishment.
Moneyball is not just about the (relative) success of these efforts. It won’t test your knowledge of the infield fly rule and doesn’t overload with scenes of sporting prowess. Director Miller concentrates on the personae of Beane and Brand, allowing them to adjust and develop until they merge in a near perfect synthesis of the brash and the timid, the worldly and the geeky.
To achieve this without sacrificing individuality or over-emphasising the innate decency that drives both these men demands considerable directorial discretion, as well as Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-nominated script.
Pitt, but also Hill (both also up for Oscars), are nothing short of mesmerising, giving rich and nuanced performances of what it means to maintain integrity at both a personal and professional level.
Moneyball | Directed by Bennett Miller (USA 2011) with Brad Pitt, Johah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Starts February 2