The Road to the Oscars continues with an Oscar contender I recently saw on DVD, yes I didn’t see this in theaters. Moneyball was a surprise for me to see on the Best Picture list because after watching it I said, “It was good, but it wasn’t great.” Brad Pitt’s performance was great, but again Pitt just played Brad Pitt. Not to ruffle any feathers but I have to say this got nominated purely because of Brad Pitt (this is one of two films he made that are on the Best Picture list and I did enjoy this FAR more than Tree of Life).
Billy Beane (Pitt) is the manager of the Oakland A’s, a baseball team that has continuously underperformed. With little money and losing three of its top players, Beane is at his wit’s end. When he meets economics major Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who says that the way players are recruited needs to change, it inspires Beane to create a team that will challenge what everyone knows about baseball.
I will give Moneyball credit for creating a film that can appeal to sports fans and the casual observer. I’m not a huge baseball fan, I know the basics of the game but nothing about the individual teams. Moneyball tells of the Oakland A’s who were one of the lowest funded teams in the League going up against other teams that could pay millions of dollars for players. The classic underdog story is showcased as Beane tries to get more money and almost is a conman in terms of how he pits other managers against each other. When the idea of moneyball comes up Beane becomes even more of a smooth operator trying to sell players who were getting paid a couple thousand dollars.
When Pitt is charming as Billy Beane, especially in the baseball world, he’s good…not great but good. The problem is Pitt has never been able to shake off that persona of being Brad Pitt and I never saw him as Billy Beane. His casual grin, his foppish hairstyle, I never saw the character but the actor playing just a really cool guy. Director Bennett Miller tries hard to include a sweet relationship between Beane and his daughter but even that came off as manipulative and fake, especially when the girl sings a song by Lenka that wasn’t around in 2002 when the movie is set. It’s just drips off the movie like corn syrup.
Jonah Hill also got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and again the performance was good, but nothing worthy of an Oscar. Much like the nomination for Christopher Plummer in Beginners (the typical “You’re old so we better give you one now”), Hill just seemed to get the nomination for not playing a funny guy. The performance may not be one where he makes an ass out of himself but he still is awkward and bumbling like similar Hill performances. The true test will be if Hill can make me forget his roles in other hilarious movies and really show some depth and range.
Moneyball is good, but it’s not Oscar good. The reasons why it’s on the Best Picture list are apparent but it’s certainly not one of the best movies to come out this year.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.