Brad Pitt has made some great movies over the years. Se7en. Fight Club. Inglorious Basterds. Snatch. He's delivered a top shelf performance in everything he's ever done and seems to almost relish in the fact that he's so good looking yet insists on playing roles covered in grime, blood or sleaze for the most part. Moneyball is a new sort of role for him. The true story of Billy Beane, the man who changed the game of baseball by recruiting based on stats and not money, might be the role that finally gets him an Oscar.
Director Bennett Miller (Capote) created a character piece out of a baseball story and not the other way around. Refreshing for those of us who don't care for baseball at all. I personally find the sport boring and plodding, but Moneyball rarely is. It gets a tad bogged down in details that most people don't understand at times but you're willing to overlook it because of the performance that Pitt gives in each scene.
The film is scripted by Aaron Sorkin who just won and Oscar for The Social Network and was the creator of The West Wing. I expected the enthusiastic pop and crackle of a classic Sorkin script that chews through dialogue like a rabid dog attack. Sadly, I got a more run-of-the-mill Hollywood script that seems watered down and more realistic, which is less effective as a form of entertainment.
Joining Pitt in the film is Jonah Hill (Superbad, Get Him to the Greek) who proves that he can do serious and sedated. We also have minor roles from Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Doubt), Robin Wright Penn (Princess Bride, Forrest Gump) and Chris Pratt (NBC's Parks and Rec, Take Me Home Tonight). All of these performers are incredibly underutilized and not allowed to spread their wings as they all have in the past. Of course, some may look at that as a noble characteristic of the film and Miller as a director; that he was able to have this great cast but sparingly use them only as padding for a film that is undeniably Pitt's.
Although this will be viewed as a Sports Movie by most, I'm not entirely sold on the fact that it is. No more than Rocky or Field of Dreams. The most touching scenes in the movie are between Pitt and his daughter in performances that feel like they were improvised or a candid conversation between a father and his actual daughter. Beane isn't portrayed a rational or a compromising man, but he's still very likable and noble. You find yourself routing him on when he's taking away power from Hoffman's head coach character or belittling Recruiting veterans. You want him to succeed in the worst way and you're not really sure why. That's one of the great aspects about Moneyball. It's complex and wonderful and about baseball, which hasn't had a quality film made about it decades.
Brad Pitt has done lots of great performances in his career that I think he should have won an Oscar for. Is Moneyball better than those movies? No. But if he wins an Oscar for it, I'll be very pleased since it's a home run!
Moneyball (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-