After an unsuccessful career as a baseball player, Billy Beane (Pitt) is now the general manager of the Oakland A's. But the team's low budget makes it unable to compete with the league's wealthy clubs. Then he meets Peter (Hill), an economist who uses stats and numbers to rank players, and they work out a system to field a championship team within budget. Getting the coach (Hoffman) to go along with this is virtually impossible, and baseball's old timers think Billy is insane. Until the A's start winning.
Since this is based on a true story, the plot avoids the pitfalls of most sports-themed movies. But this is also due to the way the director and writers studiously avoid cliches. They also pack the movie with intelligent dialog that never gets bogged down in the mythical wonder of baseball. Sure, that's in there, but it never takes over Field of Dreams-style. Instead, with its "nerds rule the world" theme, it's more like The Social Network with a bit of heart and soul.
And the cast is excellent. Although a stronger sense of humour would have made them more loveable, the actors bring each character to life with detail and charm. Even with a big movie idol like Brad Pitt front and centre, it remains grounded and real. Billy's flashbacks to himself as a younger player (Thompson) never get lost in nostalgia, and his relationships with his ex-wife (Wright) and daughter (Dorsey) are believably complex.
Less clear is the point of it all, beyond perhaps never giving up on what you believe to be the right thing to do. The film never implies that you'll always be a winner, but by playing it straight and keeping the characters realistic it does remind us that, while the world is a tough place, being true to ourselves and the people we love is a pretty good way to start when faced with a tempting decision.
Run time: 133 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd September 2011
Box Office USA: $75.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $110.2M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 223 Rotten: 13
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, Robin Wright as Sharon, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg, Stephen Bishop as David Justice, Brent Jennings as Ron Washington, Ken Medlock as Grady Fuson, Tammy Blanchard as Elizabeth Hatteberg, Jack McGee as John Poloni, Vyto Ruginis as Pittaro, Nick Searcy as Matt Keough, Glenn Morshower as Ron Hopkins, Casey Bond as Chad Bradford, Nick Porrazzo as Jeremy Giambi, Chris McGarry as Ed Wade, Reed Diamond as Mark Shapiro, Kerris Dorsey as Casey Beane, Arliss Howard as John Henry, Reed Thompson as Young Billy, James Shanklin as Billy's Dad, Diane Behrens as Billy's Mom, Takayo Fischer as Suzanne, Derrin Ebert as Mike Magnante, Miguel Mendoza as Ricardo Rincon, Adrian Bellani as Carlos Peña