Pitt and Hill score with ‘Moneyball’
Just like most sports movies, Moneyball is about underdogs, a ragtag group of guys no one ever thought would make but who end up impressing everyone in the final scene. Unlike most sports movies, Moneyball’s underdogs aren’t necessarily the players, and it’s this shift in perspective that makes the movie so unique and successful.
Brad Pitt is Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s. Billy is in a tough spot when his star players are traded and he’s left with a team of less-than-stellar benchwarmers. He’s impressed when he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young, nerdy assistant at another team, who tells him that instead of a lost season, what he really has is a stellar opportunity to create a great team from these MLB scraps. Billy immediately hires Peter and they begin using advanced statistics to recruit players who are too old, who look weird when they throw and who have never played the position they’ll be assigned. The rest of the league thinks they’re crazy…until the risk starts paying off and the team flies up in the ranks.
It’s not easy to think of Pitt as an underdog–he’s gorgeous, rich and talented–but he’s able to play Beane as a guy under pressure who’s just trying to squeeze a drop of success out of what he’s been given. Pitt’s Beane is professional, yet personable and passionate, much like the real people who work in sports administration. He gets frustrated, but never gives up, a very relatable quality regardless of your knowledge of baseball or sports in general.
Hill is equally impressive, capturing the intelligent yet meek nature of Peter. There’s a firm pecking order in sports and he’s shy to step out of that, but he starts to feel more and more confident with it as Billy trusts him with big decisions. Usually Hill’s characters are bold, over-confident and outgoing, but this is closer to Cyrus, where he brought a quieter comedy to the role. He has the ability to communicate with looks instead of words, a true skill. His chemistry with Pitt is spectacular and works perfectly with their character relationships.
Having a little experience with the politics of professional sports, I thoroughly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes view at what goes into making a team. Your average sports movie features fans cheering when someone hits a homerun, scores a touchdown or slams a monster dunk, but there’s a world of phone calls, contracts and negotiations that take place before the players even put on their uniforms, and those aspects are rarely seen. It’s great to see a sports film that can keep things enthralling when the majority of the action takes place in an office as opposed to on the field.