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Sunday, 23 October 2011 16:26

'Moneyball' Hits One Out of the Park
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Bennett Miller
  • Dates: Opened September 23, 2011

Moneyball's behind-the-scenes drama is a terrific companion piece to the World Series' on-the-field excitement. Based on the real-life experiences of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, Moneyball asks tough questions, especially how to compete against the wealthiest teams. And it finds answers as creative as Beane's 2001 solution to having an operating revenue one-fourth the Yankees' budget, for one example.

Instead of remaining a virtual farm club for wealthier teams, Beane decides to take a different path. The catalyst for this comes courtesy of Peter Brand, a Yale University economics major whom Beane hires away from the Cleveland Indians in a great scene. Brand's analytical number crunching leads to some revolutionary decisions using a system still employed today.

Brand argues: play the man who gets on base most often even if he can't pitch any more; the man who can't field at first base, even when the team needs a first baseman; or the older, still good athlete who's looking at his last few years. Meantime, every other team is bidding against each other to buy the best. BUT, if you can't beat 'em and the A's can't with their budget, figure out a whole new approach, something that doesn't happen without many arguments with the team manager, the owner, and especially the scouts.

Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, who adapted Michael Lewis' best selling novel, have a real ear for the telling phrase and for suspenseful silences when nonverbal reactions express everything important. Equally impressive, Moneyball keeps its focus in the baseball GM's office while including necessary snippets from games and a quick montage as the A's start on their record setting win streak.

Since any baseball fan knows the story, the drama must come more from the individuals. As Beane, Brad Pitt is up to that challenge showing what a first-rate, multifaceted actor he's become. Giving him added depth, flashbacks show Beane's earlier baseball playing days, his choice between Stanford and the show, and his broken family life. A perfect complement, Jonah Hill plays Brand. As Pitt broods beautifully and runs an emotional roller coaster, Jonah crunches numbers and, as our surrogate, provides a layman's accessible emotional register.

Moneyball has so much to say about individual struggles and creative thinking that it's for everyone, not only baseball fans. At area cinemas.

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