AAR at the Movies: Moneyball (and Brad Pitt)

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

22 thoughts on “AAR at the Movies: Moneyball (and Brad Pitt)

  1. LeeB.

    I plan to watch Moneyball when it comes out on dvd. I used to like him but I think his celebrity has changed him in a lot of ways. He seems more superficial to me these days.

  2. AAR Sandy

    I admire the work he does in New Orleans — he’s heavily involved in actual rebuilding of homes there — but I’ve never liked him. Not even when he was married to my beloved Jen.

  3. DabneyAAR

    I just had lunch with a friend of mine who is a film professor at Duke. She raved about the movie.

  4. Lea Hensley

    I’m really looking forward Moneyball. I admire Pitt’s work for the most part and have always been a fan. I try to not follow celebrity’s personal lives too much but I must admit that I usually take a second look at pictures of his brood.

  5. Jean Wan

    I think some people have complained that it’s really slow, but I like slow movies.

    @Lea – When you say you take a second look, do you mean that positively or negatively?

  6. Susan/DC

    In the Washington Post review of “Burn After Reading”, the reviewer said that the tragedy of Brad Pitt was that he was a superlative character actor buried in the body of a leading man. He’s one of those actors (George Clooney is another) who were known more for their looks than their acting skills when younger. As they have matured, however, I have found them much more appealing, in part because they showed there was actual substance beneath the pretty exterior.

  7. Lea Hensley

    Jean Wan: I think some people have complained that it’s really slow, but I like slow movies.@Lea – When you say you take a second look, do you mean that positively or negatively?

    When I take a second look, it is in a positive manner. I think all those children are precious and I like to imagine they have a great home life. Who really knows but I like to believe the best.

  8. Lynda X

    I like Brad Pitt, but was disappointed with “Moneyball.”

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    With every sports movie I’ve ever seen, there’s a pay off. At this end of THIS one, Pitt’s team does not win (as a matter of fact, more is shown of their loss of the 20th game running that anything before it); he chooses to stay in the same-old, down ball team (because of his daughter, presumably) instead of going to the Red Sox where he would have been paid the top in the country AND appreciated, but it is is Red Sox that wins the series, using his choosing philosophy, not his team. It’s much ado about nothing. It’s hard to make a sport movie about statistics.
    Go rent “Bull Durham” instead.

  9. Ann

    Meet Joe Black! I loved him in that movie. Then he went and cheated on Jennifer Aniston. Have not liked him since.

  10. Missie

    I’ve always liked Brad. :-)

    I tend to view an actor’s/actress’s work separately from his/her personal life — whether or not I like their portrayals in films, not how they conduct themselves in their personal lives.

    Another recommendation from me for Meet Joe Black. Hubby and I also really enjoyed Pitt (and the films, as well) in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (it took me by surprise that hubby got drawn into that film, but he did — it mesmerized him), “Inglorious Basterds,” “Babel” (really good film, “Babel”), and “Snatch.”

  11. Bessie

    Brad Pitt is very good in TREE OF LIFE–although a lot of people find the film baffling. It is beautiful to look at and captures life in the ’50s really well–mostly through images and snatches of dialogue.

  12. Jean Wan

    Lynda X: I like Brad Pitt, but was disappointed with “Moneyball.”SPOILERSPOILERSPOILERWith every sports movie I’ve ever seen, there’s a pay off.At this end of THIS one, Pitt’s team does not win (as a matter of fact, more is shown of their loss of the 20th game running that anything before it); he chooses to stay in the same-old, down ball team (because of his daughter, presumably) instead of going to the Red Sox where he would have been paid the top in the country AND appreciated, but it is is Red Sox that wins the series, using his choosing philosophy, not his team.It’s much ado about nothing.It’s hard to make a sport movie about statistics.
    Go rent “Bull Durham” instead.

    I think it’s because it wasn’t like a “typical” sports movie (with payoff and everything) that I enjoyed “Moneyball”. Sometimes I get sick of the whole triumphant finish to the teen/sports/musical/rom-com movie that I’m dying for a good movie that’s /not/ depressing but that still presents a different frame of reality. Just a personal preference.

    Re Bull Durham – I’ve heard about it so much I think I’ll have to rent it. But from where?! Blockbusters has disappeared!

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