moneyball-movie-poster-2011-1010711003Confession: I don’t actually remember liking Brad Pitt until Ocean’s Eleven. Which was, let’s see, twenty years after Thelma & Louise, Interview with a Vampire, Se7en, and whatever other movies made him famous? I just never found his films interesting, and it always seemed like he was more famous for being famous than for actually acting. (Operative word: “seemed”.)

But I liked Ocean’s Eleven, because it was about a bunch of guys being charming and witty at all ages, and here was this folksy guy-next-door who taught deadbeat teen stars how to play poker properly while stuffing his face with fries. I really liked Ocean’s Eleven, because somehow it changed my image of Brad Pitt forever.

So I saw Moneyball Friday night, and I’ll never see him the same way again. In case you haven’t heard of it, the movie is based on the eponymous non-fiction bestseller by Michael Lewis, which is about Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics (that’s baseball for all you non-sporty people). As portrayed in the movie, in 2002 the As had a salary payroll a third the amount of the Yankees, and they were bleeding players fast to richer teams and fatter wallets. So Beane decided to do something about it, and used the statistical principles outlined by an accountant to choose players based on their stats rather than their face, their girlfriend’s faces, or the beauty of their form.

I liked this movie because as many critics have already said, it’s a baseball movie that’s not really about baseball. I think some of the audience were getting a little restless during the screening – at just over two hours it was a very deliberate two hours (i.e. slow) that deromanticized the sport, forcing its characters and audience to realize rethink the old baseball standbys; the old scouting practice, for instance, is portrayed as archaic and flawed, and I never realized how unstable the average ballplayer’s life must be – and that’s only in the major leagues. But I like that kind of movie. Add in Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Kerris Dorsey as Pitt’s daughter in some wonderfully understated and genuine roles (yes, Jonah Hill), and I honestly think we have a winner.

And of course, there’s Brad Pitt. Read Manohla Dargis’ review in the NYT; she puts it better than I ever could (man, I like that woman). Suffice to say that I have never seen so many depths to one of his screen characters – I thought his performance was flat-out awesome.

So I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a Brad Pitt convert. But I have a very healthy dose of respect now for him.

Have you seen Moneyball? Plan to? What’s your opinion of Brad Pitt? Any movies you’d recommend to me?

– Jean AAR