Pitt plays Billy Beane, the real-life General Manager of the Oakland A’s. Faced with piecing together a pro team with a budget a fourth as large as the New York Yankees he breaks with tradition — using scouts, instinct and guts — to find a scientific method to build a team on the cheap. With a Yale trained economist (Jonah Hill) he creates sabermetrics, a combination of facts, figures and computer algorithms to recruit his team.
Richard: Mark, I liked this movie. The synopsis sounds very dry, but so did The Social Network before you actually sat down and watched it. I thought Moneyball took what could be the dry subject of baseball stats and spiced it up with complex, interesting characters, a compelling human story while leaving the usual sport’s movie clichés behind. What did you think?
Mark: I liked it, too. It’s a sports movie for people who don’t care about sports. What really struck me about it was that while most movies have heroes who believe in intuition and passion, the Brad Pitt character sees reason and science as the path to success. It’s kind of a Revenge Of The Nerds story, except that Pitt couldn’t look nerdy if he tried. Your comparison with The Social Network is apt, Richard, but Billy Beane is played as a much nicer person than Mark Zuckerberg.
RC: Maybe so, and better looking too. The movie moves at about half the speed of The Social Network but that’s OK; we’re not dealing with the fast moving world of cyber space here but the more relaxed pace of America’s favourite pastime. It’s a slow build, but the seventh inning stretch is exciting.
MB: Yes, two excellent set pieces towards the end of the movie: the rapid set of phone calls as players are swapped and dropped, and the montage of record breaking wins that come one after the other. But there’s an elegiac tone of melancholy that permeates the picture. For a couple of outsiders who turn out to be right, Pitt and his crony, played admirably by Jonah Hill, seem to derive little pleasure from their victories. This is not a sports movie in which guys high five each other constantly. They’re all a pretty gloomy bunch.
RC: This isn’t a baseball movie and despite the game footage, it’s not a sports movie either. Pitt and Hill, in a rare serious role, dominate the movie with their behind-the- scenes stories. Like The Social Network, Moneyball places the onus on the characters and not the technology that drives the story. We’ve seen baseball movies before, but we’ve never seen the game from this angle.
MB: And I can’t say enough good things about Pitt’s effortless acting or Jonah Hill’s wonderful supporting work. He no longer needs the Apatow factory to pay his rent!