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MONEYBALL

SYNOPSIS:
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), former would-be superstar of baseball, is now the general manager of Oakland A's team. Just before the 2002 season, Billy faces a huge problem: three of their star players have been bought by other clubs who have access to huge budgets. With a weak team with a history of losses coupled with little budget, Billy hires Yale-educated economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who set about to find discards of the game who have key skills but are undervalued because they are injured or too old. The coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) refuses to co-operate however and Billy has to become more involved with the players and the system to see whether they have a chance of success.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's not just a rousing film about baseball or an inspiring true story about one man against the establishment. Moneyball is a sharp, shrewd and satisfying film about winning, losing and playing the odds, when the odds are playing statistics instead of relying on conventional gut instincts. Additionally, it boasts a superlative performance by Brad Pitt, who is more handsome than any man has a right to be and simply lights up the screen in every scene. The film's credentials are immaculate, too. Two heavyweight screenwriters in Steven Zaillian (American Gangster), Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) have collaborated to come up with a highly intelligent and gripping script adapted from the novel by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side), while Bennett Miller (Capote) ably lassoes the various story strands with baseball footage and the fundamental essence of the film - to deliver gold.

We have to think differently, says Brad Pitt's Billy Beane, General Manager of Oakland A's baseball club, after losing three key players to clubs whose budgets can afford huge salaries. It is just before the 2002 season and Billy hates losing even more than he likes winning and there have been a lot of losses lately. Years ago, he was the baseball superstar of tomorrow; the youngster most likely to succeed, yet despite all his talent indicators, he did not succeed. His tenacious will-to-win nature is now focusing on management and he is setting the bar high. In the ever-competitive world of procuring and trading players for big bucks, Billy does not have the resources, but he has a keen eye and a strong will. When he meets Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) whose passion is economics and baseball, he smells the promise of success, even though he is not sure what form the success may take.

Utilising Peter's cutting edge philosophy of crunching numbers and looking at ways of maximizing undervalued players instead of procuring star talent, Billy ruffles feathers and egos as he replaces his lost stars with players whose questionable credentials. It's one thing to hire a team whose numbers tally on paper, but there's another element in play. The coach has to play the players in the way the statistics were intended. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the coach Art Howe stubbornly refuses and the team continues its downward trajectory of losses.

The character study aspect of how Billy is portrayed is one of the resultant joys of the film. Abrupt and constantly eating, Billy has a hands-off approach, never going to the game or getting to know the players in case he needs to terminate their contract. His relationship with Peter is also unexpectedly rewarding and Hill is superb. Physically, Pitt and Hill are opposites. There's another side of Billy too, in his role as single dad to 12 year old Casey (Kerris Dorsey) and the scene in which Casey sings a tune about a little girl lost in the middle, is extremely poignant. Robin Wright is well cast as Billy's ex wife. But things slowly change and Billy's vulnerabilities rise to the surface as the team starts winning.

Moneyball is not a film with a simplistic ending. There are crescendos and dips and nice analogies in which life's important things are compared to sport. You don't have to be a baseball fan to see this hard-hitting and entertaining film that makes us feel as though we've witnessed a home run.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MONEYBALL (M)
(US, 2011)

CAST: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Brent Jennings, Ken Medlock, Tammy Blanchard, Jack McGee

PRODUCER: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller

SCRIPT: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin (book by Michael Lewis)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister

EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen

MUSIC: Mychael Danna

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jess Gonchor

RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 10, 2011







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