OK, so from what I can gather via the non-sports sports movie Moneyball, about ten years ago, Brad Pitt (I think that’s the right title) got around his ball club’s limited budget by hiring Jonah Hill to crunch numbers, assembling a complementary team rather than a bunch of prima donna ball player celebrities. This allows them to go on and lose many important playoff games.
I may have that slightly askew. As may the movie, which is based on, inspired by, or at least partially suggested by the real life story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane and Peter Brand.
I found the premise of this movie not entirely plausible.
I think it’s totally possible that a sharp-minded baseball fan/geek could crunch numbers in such a way as to locate prejudices that might keep a ball club from hiring certain players. I think it’s plausible that a sports franchise can recklessly pursue and overpay superstar to ill effect (Kobe? A-Rod?). But this movie suggests you can put together a winning team just by number-crunching and I just don’t believe that.
On the other hand, I didn’t really care.
Arch-liberal Aaron Sorkin and Oscar-winning Steve Zaillian—okay, Sorkin has an Oscar, too, but for the pile of meh that is The Social Network—have penned a story that is as entertaining as it is implausible. Bennett Miller, the director of the slightly better of the two Capote biographies that came out five years ago, directs things briskly and keeps stuff moving.
Brad Pitt’s likable. It was a good role for him. He’s fairly convincing as a charismatic huckster looking to make the most out of a losing hand. Somewhat surprisingly, Jonah Hill is likable, taking a break from a nearly unbroken string of unsavory, vulgar characters to play a nerd with real number crunching skills.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was…okay. He looks the part of a baseball coach, but only sorta. Hoffman has the doughy body of an ex-job, but he also has a kind of softness to him that doesn’t quite gel with the hard edge old ball players seem to have. Robin Wright has a small role as a kind of condescending ex-wife, which she plays very well, but mostly seems notable because she looks so much better than she did as the haggard Lincoln assassination Conspirator.
Kerris Dorsey really stood out in her small role as Beane’s daughter. She and Pitt have some real chemistry that provides some unexpected depth.
So, yeah: Good performances, lively script, brisk direction, lotsa fun, seemingly preposterous to this non-baseball fan.
Worth a look. Worth an Oscar? Dunno.