Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Dream team, dramatic data

The accessible biopic/sports drama “Moneyball” provides an extensive look at the business of baseball, getting behind the scenes and dissecting the mechanics of assembling a functional team. It’s also based on the fascinating true story of an underdog figure whose maverick efforts challenged conventional thinking.
Brad Pitt surprises with his inspired portrayal of Billy Beane, a promising baseball player who didn’t quite achieve his dreams. Shifting to scouting and management, Billy eventually tries a new gambit after his team’s resounding defeat: he hires oddball analyst Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who helps him revamp the Oakland A’s, adding unexpected and underused players to the roster.

“Moneyball” manages to make the sport and its complicated team-shaping practices interesting and comprehensible to non-baseball fans. There’s a lively synergy between the parlance and the imagery, partly making the drama intriguing. But it’s Billy Beane’s tale that actually hooks; there are times when the viewer will question his perfectionist and idealist traits, and admire his morale-boosting tactics and no-nonsense attitude.

Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”), the film immensely benefits from the deft portrayals of Pitt and Hill, the latter effectively subtle as the brains behind the more adventurous player suggestions.

“Moneyball” opens today, March 7.