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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Moneyball | Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Don’t let the title throw you like a wayward pitch; this is a baseball movie, and an intelligent, mesmerizing one at that.

Based on a true story, the “action” if you will, is mostly cerebral, and initiated by Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt).  Trying to get a bigger bankroll to attract talent for his ball club after three of his best players are lured away to other franchises by much bigger paychecks, Beane attempts to recruit/draft new talent with a relatively meager budget.

A meeting with Cleveland Indians management leads Beane to discover 25-year-old Yale economics graduate Pete Brand (Jonah Hill) whose got a statistical method for predicting a team’s success by the percentage of its players who can get on base – nothing else maters, not pitching, catching, nor running ability.

This revolutionary way of building a team is adopted by Beane, who can now acquire players that other clubs won’t touch, for a relative song.  When a superstar can command seven million a year, “buying” an injured catcher for $275,000 is a bargain.

The industry thinks Beane has gone mad.  Athletics team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Beane clash over the lineup on a daily basis.  The tension continues as the newly formed team, comprised of less-than-ideal players stumble through the start of the 2002 season as an embarrassment.

Beane won’t give up and together with Brand, and his computer-generated analysis, continues to acquire and play his oddball team against highly paid opponents.

Current scenes are intercut with Beane’s Major League draft (Mets, Twins, Tigers, and Athletics) for which he gave up a full scholarship to Stanford University to pursue.  His career and marriage didn’t pan out and he has a cordial relationship with his ex wife Sharon (Robin Wright) and a doting one with 12-year-old daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey).  He lives alone, and aside from Casey, is devoted only to the success of the Oakland Athletics.

Games continue to be a Keystone Cop-like comedy of errors, frustrating fans and baseball insiders alike.  Beane won’t be swayed, but does clean house when he finds the team in a nonsensical celebratory mood after a loss.

And then…something happens.

It might be what you think, then again it might not.  It might be a little from each column.  What will take you by surprise is the crackling, sharp, and energetic script by Academy Award Winners Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York) and Aaron Sorkin (Social Network) and the spot-on delivery of Brad Pitt’s Beane.

Director Bennett Miller (Capote) manages to create a compelling film from mounds of exposition.  Talk rules the screen, in meetings, phone calls, and painful trade/firing notifications.  In Miller’s hands, the wheeling and dealing becomes its own character, and Pitt gives it an elegant, yet hard-nosed visage that persuades us to be on board no matter what team we might favor.  We are all for the moment, cheering for the Oakland A’s.

Pitt carries this team, appearing in nearly every scene as the almost recklessly fearless Billy Beane.  Jonah Hill finally gets a chance to play a serious, smart fellow without a hint of toilet humor, but his innate discomfort “shtick” is intact and works well for him here.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Art Howe is a seething death-glare in a uniform: fat, bald and utterly effective.  Robin Wright’s short scene is almost a cameo, there only to prove that Beane was married once and perhaps has a hard time with relationships in general.  Kerris Dorsey’s Casey brings out Beane’s oft-buried sentimental side – her character helps flesh out his, to both their benefit.

The title might not do it justice (from the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, who appends it with The Art of Winning an Unfair Game) but the acting will.

Moneyball drives home the point that sometimes, the biggest games take place off the field.

Four Chicks

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