Moneyball is about Billy Beane, the team manager of Oakland Athletics. With a team that just lost during the last game, star players that are on their way to departure, and a budget that is even lesser than meager, he decides to meet Peter Brand, an economics graduate whose expertise is analyzing data on the computer. With Brand, Beane decides to build the team with players that are mostly no-names by studying and using the data supplied by Brand to bring back the team to its game.
Baseball is not one of those sports that usually interest me. However, you do not need to become a baseball enthusiast to understand or even enjoy the film. There is skilful craftsmanship present in the film – the film does not immediately divulge to noise or unnecessary aberration in the story. Every moment of the film is controlled with a steady hand, and the subtle unravelling of events does the best favour in the film. The film is definitely not hurrying, but the film is built on an expertly constructed narrative that creates the subtle urgency in the storytelling.
Bennett Miller, the director of my choice for Best Picture 2005, Capote, has again proved his amazing skill of control and restraint. He uncannily provides a lively treatment to a material that could have easily been uninteresting, me being not so well informed with baseball. With a clever and tightly fabricated screenplay that offers an insightful at the world of baseball and the people involved, the choice to dwell more on the characters rather than the game itself is ingenious, bringing in the specificity and unambiguity that causes the excitement in the human drama packed in the story.
The way Miller balances the exhilarating game that takes place behind the actual baseball matches and the personal drama of the characters, especially Beane, provides for a gripping story without instantaneously showing off. Here is a director that has proven his expertise on the craft by a careful handling of pace and rhythm.
The film also has an assuring cinematography that paints the frame with seamless and uncompromising imagery. Enhancing the visual experience is the potent editing. With the restraint comes a series of images that breathes life to the story with flawless movement. It captures every scene with an underlying sense of firmness. There is also the astute use of music, delivering a precise feeling of tension and smoothness.
Familiar faces like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, and Chris Pratt populate story, but it all boils down to the two central performances of the film – Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.
Jonah Hill surprises with a performance that oozes with clean-cut intelligence and quiet determination. The role does not necessarily demand Hill to carry a heavy emotional baggage. Rather, it requires him to imbue a reserved facade of confidence. Hill succeeds in playing with the tricks of the character, and more often in the film, he displays a surprising diligence that works well in his character’s tacit inwardness. Here is a supportive performance that can be overlooked at first glance, but rewatching reveals the crafty conviction Hill delivers to the role.
As Billy Beane, Brad Pitt reminds us that he is a formidable actor, wearing the slyness of the character with full confidence and smoothness. His character, like Hill’s Peter Brand, requires a complex and layered attack on a character that does not actually externalize his personal drama, but rather uses it as an underlining motivation. Pitt succeeds in breathing in life to a character that appears first as a know-it-all man, but later reveals himself as a man of vulnerability and implied tenderness.
Pitt’s performance leans on a very natural approach – it does not shout for attention; rather, it is in the slick nature of the character as well as the nuanced humor embedded in the lines he deliver that the performance rely on. And with this approach, Pitt has reached the crux of why the film works so well – it is his lively take on Beane that compliments with the film’s multifaceted yet tranquil atmosphere.
The film is mesmerizing. It does not break any new ground, but its bone-deep look at the world of baseball and the people involved in it makes for a fascinating watch. This is a smart film, and you do not need to be a baseball enthusiast for you to like it. The expertise in filmmaking evident is enough to seal the deal. The film is vibrant, alive, and energetic. I just wish I can love it more.
For this, the film gets: