August and September have been very kind to moviegoers, and September 23 brings what may just be the best movie of the year so far. The long-gestating film adaptation of the Michael Lewis book, Moneyball, is almost everything you could want in a movie. It is an intelligent, funny, hugely entertaining look at Oakland A's GM Billy Beane's successful attempt to change the game of baseball back in 2002. Armed with a killer script from Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin brimming with great lines and a handful of scenes that pop off the screen (the trade deadline scene is an instant classic), and confident, smooth direction from Bennett Miller (Capote), Moneyball should prove to be a mighty threat at this year's Oscars. Nominations for Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay are all but guaranteed. Yes, it is that damn good.
Brad Pitt is terrific as Beane, giving one of the best performances of his career. He's relaxed and comfortable, fully inhabiting the character. The chemistry between Pitt and Jonah Hill, stretching himself in a dramatic role as the young, Yale-educated sabermetric genius, is a delight. You don't need to be a fan of baseball to appreciate the virtuoso filmmaking on display here. Sorkin connection aside, Moneyball is this year's Social Network. Though it purports to be about one thing (here, baseball; Social Network - Facebook), the movie is about so much more than that. Moneyball uses baseball as a springboard to make some really interesting points about tradition, change, business, loyalty, and the human spirit.
The movie takes small liberties with facts, but this is by and large a true story, grounded in a firm sense of reality and believability. In a Q&A with Hill after the screening, he mentioned that Miller's two major stylistic influences were All the President's Men and The Natural. You can tell. It definitely achieved a perfect mix of those two films - mission accomplished. To borrow a bad baseball pun, Moneyball hits it out of the park. I can't recommend it highly enough. ***** stars.