There have been approximately seventy-five movies revolving around this popular and addictive sport; I have seen at least half ( “A League of Their Own”, “The Natural”, “Bull Durham”, “Field of Dreams”) and ashamed to admit my limited grasp of the intricacies, nuances of the game. “Moneyball” is a film about statistics, odds, a “team” being more than the sum of its parts. In other words a movie for the masses, regardless of the degree of interest or knowledge of the game.
Brad Pitt is gifted as “Billy Beane”, the general manager of the Oakland A’s; fighting for his career and the future of his team, with one of the lowest budgets in the league. He is also struggling with the ghost, the specter of his unrealized baseball career; at 18 he rejected a joint baseball/football scholarship to Stanford and signed with the Mets in 1980; his predicted meteoric star never materialized; his youth, volatile temper hampered and sabotaged his skill; the flashbacks of the “boy” give credence to the frustrations of the “man”; garnishing applause for script -writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.
Facing a wall of desperation Billy encounters “Peter Brand” the corpulent, economics wiz-kid from Yale. Jonah Hill (“Cyrus”) is quietly, passively mesmerizing as the uncomfortable genius paving, by way of the computer, the team’s path, formula for success. The depth of his performance, at time wordless, lies in his ability to project massive waves of complicated intellectual dexterity and finesse without uttering a word; a mind on alert 24/7.
Sometimes it is a minor role that resonates with the viewer, lingering long after leaving the theatre. Kerris Dorsey as “Casey”, Billy’s 12- year- old daughter holds the “gold” for her sensitive, poignant, mature performance; she sings to her father while strumming on a guitar in a record store (“I’m Just a Little Girl”); she is wise in her shyness, secure in her love for the flawed man who gave her life.
“Moneyball” is a good story; there is something inherent in man that conditions us to root for the underdog; we have all been there and even if the struggle is unrequited, the battle fought, is worth the fray, and minimally, first base.
Caveat> Many teams have adapted the A’s formula but none as successfully as the financially endowed Boston Red Sox; they have won two Word Series and are always major contenders.