The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane is brought to life thanks to a classy bunch of guys including director Bennett Miller (Capote) and screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Brad Pitt portrays Beane as an outwardly laid back, tobacco-spitting divorced father who is haunted by his past failures as a ballplayer. The film is set in 2002 when the A’s budget put them at the bottom of the sport ($38 million versus the $120 million dollar budgets of their peers). A chance meeting between Beane and young mathematical genius Peter Brand (a fictional amalgamation of real-life figures played by Jonah Hill in his first serious dramatic role) helps the GM realize his goal of approaching the sport in an entirely new context. Beane’s support of using statistical figures to build a prize-winning team rather than traditional scouting methods that date back 150 years is met with reproach by the rest of the ball club, most notably with ardent team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The team begins to win games, Beane battles a jinx with the help of his 12-year-old daughter, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about taking chances for the sake of the underdog.
It’s an inspirational story that is more rooted in its own content than in identifiable situations thus the film never achieves the emotional connection of a Jerry Maguire or The Natural, but it’s an easy, enjoyable watch that’s perfect for autumnal audiences.
Moneyball opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.