Best Movies of All Time + [Steven Zaillian]

MONEYBALL

MONEYBALL-13

"There are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then there's fifty feet of crap, and then there's us."
-- Billy Beane
Moneyball is a 2011 dramatic film directed by Bennett Miller that tells the story of one game-changing year in the history of the Oakland Athletics franchise. After losing in the playoffs to the New York Yankees in 2001, A's General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is given the nearly impossible task of replacing some of his all-star talent with a budget that's microscopic in comparison to some of the large market baseball teams. When he tries to utilize his scouts' knowledge of the game, Billy realizes that the A's are going to need a different approach if they want to compete with the big dogs. On a trip to Cleveland, he meets the young Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate who keys Beane into the idea that there might be a computer-based way to create a championship team that the A's could afford. Beane buys into the idea and shakes up the status quo, bringing in players his associates would normally deem useless. He faces a lot of opposition, especially from team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who elects not to play the athletes in the manner Beane wants them to be played. Despite some early-season troubles, however, the team manages to find a groove and goes on to find a certain level of success, ultimately changing the scouting process in Major League Baseball.

There were a few reasons I wanted to see Moneyball. First and foremost, it stars Brad Pitt, who you may know to be one of my favorite actors to grace the silver screen (I'll talk more about his performance momentarily). Second, it's a sports movie, which in an of itself makes it an appealing flick for me. It's difficult to make an outright terrible sports film because it's so easy to get caught up in the emotion of a sporting event. When I heard that Moneyball was garnering some rather stellar reviews - it currently holds a 94% critic's approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com - I knew I had to at least give it a shot. And let me tell you, I most assuredly was not disappointed.

The story itself is rather basic, telling the tale of a year in the life of Billy Beane as he tries to reinvent the very process of creating a high-caliber sports team. At the same time, we're catching glimpses of Beane's personal life, and I for one thought the mesh between the two to be stellar. We're getting the screenplay from Academy Award winners Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, and from the moment the film starts, you know there's something great about it. I found the strength of the screenplay to be its handling of conflict. On the one hand, we're seeing the external conflict between Beane and basically everybody else who's fighting him tooth and nail when it comes to his new system. On the other hand, we're seeing the internal conflict with Beane himself as he struggles with his own feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness that stems from his days playing in the major leagues.

That's where Pitt's performance comes into play. While I've always found Pitt to be a great actor, I think it's only in the last few years that he's truly started to prove himself to the rest of the world that he can handle his own in a series of dramatic roles. For so long, he was simply the eye candy, and while he had early critical success (he scored an Academy Award nomination for his role in 1995's Twelve Monkeys), I don't think he's really gotten the respect he deserves. It's rare to hear his name being tossed into a group with the likes of Kevin Spacey or Daniel Day-Lewis, but I would posit here and now that Pitt is one of the finer actors of his generation. His role in Moneyball only solidifies my stance as he shows a wide range of emotion in completely becoming Billy Beane. And while we do get some great performances from our supporting cast - Hill and Hoffman are exceptionally good - this is really Pitt's vehicle, and it should be viewed as such.

I'd also like to tip my hat to Mychael Danna, who composed the score for this film. It definitely fit the tone of the movie, and it actually reminded me a lot of the soft-toned score that Explosions in the Sky created for 2004's Friday Night Lights. Kudos, Mr. Danna.

Overall, I think Moneyball is definitely worth, well, your money, if you feel so inclined to see it. There's only so much I can say about a film's acting and screenplay, but some films just have that "it" factor that's so difficult to describe. Moneyball definitely has "it," and as a result, we the audience are getting something rather wonderful.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-
2 Thumbs Up

Rankings
Best All-Time: #129
Best Drama: #47