There are many notable baseball films that are icons in film history, and Moneyball (2011) is arguably one that will stand with them all. Based on Michael Lewis's book of the same name, Moneyball is a biographical film and a behind-the-desk look at how Oakland Athletics's general manager Billy Beane's attempt to assemble a winning team with the help of Paul DePodesta, a young Yale economics graduate.
As lead actor in Billy Beane's role, Brad Pitt carries the film. He is not a lovable nor love-to-hate character, but on the cuff, straightforward leader whose passion for making the team a success is a personal one. This is easily one of Brad Pitt's better dramatic roles, where he is really able to showcase his talent and that he is more than a handsome face on the screen.
As Paul DePodesta, though renamed as Peter Brand for the film, Jonah Hill gives a strong supporting role performance. There is an easy chemistry between the two actors, Pitts and Hill, that carries and flows throughout the film. Some of my favorite scenes are the ones shared almost exclusively between Pitt and Hill, where the tutelage of Beane is at full swing. Such as Beane instructing Brand on how to fire one of their players, negotiating deals in the office, and the uncomfortable conversations between Beane, Brand, and the Oakland Athletics frustrated general manager Artie Howe, who is played in a minor role by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Directed by Bennett Miller of Capote (2009), MoneyBall is a movie all on its own. However, upon viewing, some of the directorial results have lingering reminders of David Fincher's The Social Network within the cinematography, flashback storytelling, and soundtrack. This may be to due to personal choices of the director, but also that the writing team for MoneyBall includes Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, who both wrote screenplays for Fincher's films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film adaptation and The Social Network, respectively. Unlike The Social Network, MoneyBall has more upbeat and lighthearted moments shared Pitt and Hill, and focuses more on the dysfunctional relationships of the managers and team rather than overwhelming ride on their shared friction. Moneyball was deservingly nominated for an Academy award in 2011 for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Picture but lost all three categories.
Moneyball, at its heart, is a philosophical sports film, and leaves you wondering what it takes to truly have a winning team and the powerful hold money has over America's beloved past-time - to build the right team, keep players from leaving for higher salaries, and is it money or your passion that equates for winning overall.