Moneyball isn’t about players,big,thrilling moments,or key,dramatic speeches.

Cast: Brad Pitt,Jonah Hill,Philip Seymour Hoffman

Director: Bennett Miller

Indian Express Ratings: ****1/2

When sports becomes about the big money and the bums you put on seats,the stars overshadow everything — the science,even simple logic. Ask M S Dhoni.

Moneyball gets to the heart of this in a film based on the true story of a general manager of the Oakland A’s team who tried to change the way baseball is played. This is partly because of the way “talent scouts” picked him up straight after school,taken in by what they saw – his looks as much as his game – and partly because he has no money to get the big guys after all his good players have been bought by the other teams.

Moneyball isn’t about players,big,thrilling moments,or key,dramatic speeches – Pitt’s Billy Beane,in fact,avoids mingling with the team because of the cold,abrupt decisions he has to take to cut them out when needed. What it is about is how the game is actually run outside the field where,cutting through all pretences,the only thing that counts is winning. As players are being negotiated between teams,nobody takes them into account. Even the grandiose of an IPL is missing,the deals struck over phones by two middle-aged men,sometimes juggling multiple offers at the same time (the screenplay writers include The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin,and he knows a thing or two about hard bargains). Beane is among the only general managers to have even been a baseball player himself.


His options limited,Beane realises he has to think different and chances upon a Yale graduate who has worked out the economics of a baseball team by maximizing on the strength of players overlooked by others. Peter Brand (Hill) calls them “an island of misfit toys”,and they are Beane’s to pick at amounts ludicrously low by baseball’s million-dollar standards.

As Beane and Brand go about forming their major-league team with “minor-league” players,Pitt and Hill come up with performances vastly diverse and completely in step to make this as good a film about sports as any without the benefit of high adrenalin or flowing testosterone. Pitt is fluid,confident and precise – keeping the insecurities of a “44-year-old with a high school diploma” and “a 12-year-old daughter”,who may lose his job,at home. Hill is awkward,quiet and not so unlike a misfit toy in the baseball island himself – a pudgy and drab foil to the fetishly,shiningly fit Beane,drawing on the latter’s strength to say things he has always wanted someone to hear.

Both have been nominated for Oscars,Pitt for Best Actor and Hill for Best Supporting Actor (apart from the film’s nominations for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay). In its focus on one of America’s great passions and one of its true heroes,the film is tailor-made for an Academy recognition. However,Pitt,who lends this role the star dazzle that puts it apart,could prove unlucky again,ironically on that count: it seems too effortless.