The science of winning

Published: April 8, 2012

Brad Pitt is visually captivating as an excessively driven GM who is unable to let go of his own failure.

Director Bennett Miller’s biographical sports drama, Moneyball, rolls with soul. Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor and Best Picture, it makes an absorbing and moving film out of two dull subjects, baseball and baseball statistics, thanks to a fine script, and some even finer performances, especially from its lead, Brad Pitt. Playing the role of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, Brad Pitt is visually captivating in his fantastic performance as the lonely and excessively driven GM, who is unable to let go of his own failure as a highly promising athlete.

The film is based around the Major League Baseball season in 2002, where after a bad start, the most poorly financed team, Oakland Athletics, eventually won 20 games in a row and set an all-time record. Though as the film shows, this achievement didn’t come easily. When the season begins, we learn that the Oakland Athletics have lost their major stars, and don’t have the resources to replace them. At a meeting with his staff, Billy Beane urges his scouts to come up with the impossible and when he travels to trade athletes with the Cleveland Indians, Beane almost leaves empty-handed. There he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a graduate of economics fresh out of Yale, who impresses Beane with his revolutionary ideas. Brand believes that baseball scouts put more stock in superficial qualities rather than actual performance. This philosophy appeals to Beane, who bitterly believes the system let him down in his own playing days, and he hires Brand as the Oakland Athletics assistant general manager.

The duo start building their new team based purely on the moneyball theory, putting together unwanted players and forming a team of misfits. When the season begins, and the theory initially fails to bear fruit, Beane finds hostile opposition from the fans as well as members of the staff, including Athletics manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), with whom his relationship grows extremely tense. After Art refuses to include all the players in the playing team whom Beane needs to make his theory click, Beane puts his job at risk by trading out perfectly good players who are favored by the Athletics’ manager.

What makes Moneyball a real prized catch is the character of Billy Beane, who by changing the system which let him down, seeks catharsis. There are many dimensions to Beane, which make him, like this film, stand out from the crowd.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 8th, 2012.

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