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Friday, September 30, 2011

Moneyball Review

Moneyball Review
2011, 133 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some strong language

Moneyball is the first film in six years from director Bennett Miller (Oscar-nominated director of the outstanding 2005 film, Capote), and it is one hell of a return.  This film stars Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill as two men who revolutionize baseball and save a failing team by breaking the two down into a mathematical equation and the success they achieve from it.  Moneyball works for so many reasons, first and foremost being Brad Pitt in one of the best performances of his career.  Pitt, an actor who has played many various and assorted characters ranging from a mental hospital patient to a spy married to another spy to Jesse James.  In every role he plays, he brings a certain charm and energy into the role which makes him extremely likable.  His charismatic air and ease in role always makes me curious as to how he will pull off his next role.  Of the actors in Hollywood that flood the tabloids, Pitt is the best.  And Moneyball is no exception to his fascinating career.   Working from an excellent script from Oscar-winners Steven Zallian (Schindler's List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Pitt delivers the rapid-fire banter effortlessly.  As Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager, Pitt fleshes him out to make him a real person.  In one scene you see him trading players breathlessly over the phone, and in another, you see him listening to his daughter play music for him with a loving and caring look in his eyes.  In short, there are few male lead performances this year that can match Pitt's.  The only one that was more impressive was Dominic Cooper's in The Devil's Double.  
Great as Pitt was, Jonah Hill holds his own quite well playing Beane's assistant who creates the formulas that Beane uses to pick players most likely to succeed on his team.  The best moments in the film occur when he is conversing with Pitt, with the two throwing witticisms back and forth.  Hill, like Pitt, has a natural ease in this film and is an absolute pleasure to watch.  
Sorkin and Zallian's script is flat-out electrifying.  They do not focus on the game of baseball as much as the behind-the-scenes work which is a breath of fresh air considering that every other sports film focuses on the "inspirational true story" that has everyone on their feet clapping by the end.  As mentioned before, the dialogue that these two brilliant writers give their actors is ingenious and keeps the laughs coming.  They do not overplay the situations, giving the film a low-key feel.  The back-and-forth exchanges between Pitt and Hill are similar to the one between Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara at the beginning of The Social Network.  With words thrown back and forth like tennis volleys, the viewer is on the edge of their seat every step of the way trying to keep up with the pace.  In one word, brilliant.
Though the acting and script were phenomenal, I did have one slight problem: the pacing.  Though the final forty minutes were some of the best that I've seen this entire year, there is a chunk in the first part that moves a little too slowly.  However, do not let me discourage you from seeing the movie with that criticism.  If you do not see it because of reading that, you are making a grave mistake.
In total, Moneyball is one of the year's best films so far.  If you go see the film for nothing but Pitt, that will be enough.  He's that good.  If you see this film, you will be delighted to find a witty, fun, and enlightening film to take your teens/sports fans to that will have you talking long after the credits roll.

-Joshua Handler

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