If money buys victories (sports or wars) how, then, can small market/small insurgents play/torment their wealthier adversaries? According to stats geek Peter Brand (Jonah Hill as the computer-driven assistant GM is effectively nerdy and blunt, especially after learning the fine art of trading players from a master: “Would you rather get a bullet to the head, or fire to the chest or bleed to death?”), assembling a team from the discarded, disgraced or semi-disabled players who can get on base more frequently than their marquee competitors and will most assuredly bring bargain-rate victories.
Buying into the process is Oakland Athletics General Manager, Billy Beane. The former player is brought to engaging, if not fully nuanced life by Brad Pitt as he toughs out the early failures only to proactively clean house and begin the quest for respectability and win ability.
Decidedly not onside is the A’s long-suffering, short-term-contract manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman in fine curmudgeonly form), who comes across as old school as they get. In order to obtain the statistically generated line-up they want, the desperate duo in the front office trade away the starters—much to everyone’s shock. But the biggest surprise of all is when the resultant winning streak threatens to re-write the record book.
To provide balance and a few scenes without the male-dominated sport, Beane’s ex-wife (Robin Wright briefly graces the screen) and their daughter, Casey (wistfully played by Kerris Dorsey) draw out the human side of the obsessed manager, but their contributions feel more contrived than heartfelt as the writing trust (screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin have cobbled together a story by Stan Chervin based on Michael Lewis’ novel, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game) attempts to hit one out of the narrative park.
Still, the conceit does permit the budding singer-songwriter to succinctly sum up her dad’s situation as only deft lyrics can: “You’re such a loser Dad / Just enjoy the show.” And most people will. JWR